Bold Predictions for 2016

2016 will be more than 2015. In the sense that I will invent even bolder predictions and fail even bigger. That’s the theory.

I didn’t do well on the 2015 bold predictions front, but that can be forgiven because no one is holding me accountable! (Right?)

Yet, I still did a lot. I went to eight different countries, but only one new one. I waded along beaches, rafted along crocodile infested rapids, climbed the head of a lion, those types of things.

I didn’t run all that much, but I hiked a fair bit. I played a lot of sports, from volleyball to softball to soccer to flag football. I watched a lot of sports as well, mostly football (Seahawks and Huskies) and some baseball. I went to a ton of music concerts…and reviewed a few.

What does 2016 have in store?

The theme is ‘More than 2015 or bust‘.

 

In 2016, I predict I will…

…visit two new baseball stadiums. Only four left!

…read 33 books (one more than last year); watch 101 movies (one more than last year).

…visit two new countries (one more than last year).

…run in at least four races (one more than last year).

…find a reason to do something even crazier than the last time.

…hike over 250 total miles. (Last year I hiked 185)

…take no prisoners and give no shits.

…pick a few musicians and go deep into their music catalog.

…binge watch three new TV shows.

…play with two puppies.

________________

 

Let’s look at how I fared from my 2015 list:

Success rate: 6/10

…visit three new baseball stadiums. Surprised? Result: Nope, I only went to one this year. St. Louis.

…do something crazy. Climb a mountain crazy. Run a half-marathon crazy. Crazy like that. Result: I went white water rafting down the Zambezi River and waved to the crocodiles! Cray cray.

…read at least 35 books. I haven’t read that much the past few years. Doubling down. Results: Nope. I only got to 32! So close!

…read seven books I own that I haven’t read. I estimate I have over 30 unread books lying around! Results: Well now…no, I only managed to read five.

…run 300 miles. That’s 25 miles per month. That sucks. Results: Hahahaha! Wow, I failed this one miserably! I ran 86 miles. I’ll blame the fact that I didn’t run much the first few months because I had thrown out my back. But to be fair, I knew that fact when I made the prediction.

…get myself to at least one new country. I haven’t been to a new country since 2012. Result: Boom! United Arab Emirates!

…write more. Result: Yes and no. I wrote more for the blog Parklife DC, but wrote somewhat less for this blog. But overall, it was more!

…volunteer to be a commissioner of a sports league. (Hint: I already did this for volleyball…victory! 1-0 already!) Result: Done.

…win a championship with one of the sports teams I play on. Let’s do this! Result: Our sand volleyball team won a championship via forfeit. Lame, but another team I was on should have won it all also, but the league scheduled the final match on a day no one was available to play. I call victory.

…play with a puppy. Result: Of course.

Cutthroat Lakes (Walt Bailey Trail)
Cutthroat Lakes (Walt Bailey Trail)

Leisurely Pursuits, and Other Timely Travails

Prepare to get assaulted by blog posts. So much useless (and timely) end-of-year content to share, so little time!

So let’s recap. My goal in December was to complete a random assortment of leisurely pursuits of my own devising. Mostly while on a holiday-type vacation in Washington state.

I dug in and really went full half-assed at the task, but like all things of piddling consequence, I amazed myself with a 85% success rate! Parade worthy?

Let’s have a gander at what transpired. (Your cue to bolt.)

Goal for December: Do all 13 items (for luck) on my specially curated To Do List.

 
December 2015 To Do List
  1. Go skiing – Last year I hurt my back, so did not get to ski. This year that situation is rectified. Result: I hit the slopes at Crystal Mountain! I did not slide all the way down a black diamond slope! Where did you hear that rumor?
  2. Attend three Seattle Seahawks games – Boom! One in Baltimore and two in Seattle. Result: Boom! Boom! Boom! They won two and lost one.
  3. Visit Portland, OR – I hear they could really use a force like me. Result: Done. A quick and dirty drive-by for lunch.
  4. Experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Maybe even up to five times if it’s good… Result: The Force is with me.
  5. Visit two new breweries – There are so many new ones, so let’s get it on! Result: Yes, I went to 7 Seas Brewery (Gig Harbor, WA) and Fremont Brewery (Seattle, WA). 
  6. Eat a Dick’s Drive-In (Seattle) Deluxe burger – This will go on every future To Do List forever and ever. Result: Eaten deluxedly.
  7. Enter a cabin – Preferably one that we rent, but I’m not adverse to a little B&E if that’s what it takes. Result: True. It was called ‘Sweet Dreams’.
  8. Try 12 new beers – Burp. Result: Of course. I lost count, but I’m sure the final number of beers I tried was impressive.
  9. Hike a hike – I need to get outside! Result: I did a short meander about Clark’s Creek Park in Puyallup.
  10. Eat at one of Seattle’s best restaurants – According to this list here or even this one hereResult: Did not!
  11. See Book of Mormon – Want to. Will try. Result: Nope!
  12. Attend and write-up two concerts – Minimum. Result: Done! I reviewed The Arcs (a side-project of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys) (read about it here) and Des Ark (read about it here).
  13. Wild Card – Something fun or dumb, that I can’t think of now. Result: One day we decided to drive to Portland, hang for a hot minute, then drive home. Dumb but typical. We used to do that often when there was a Chick-fil-A at the Lloyd Center. But it’s been gone a long time. Yes, this is different from #3 above. No fact checking allowed.
Final Results: 11/13
2015-12-29 11.07.54
Sweet Dreams

 

2015-12-23 17.43.25
Seven Seas Brewery

 

Clark's Creek Park
Clark’s Creek Park

Five Random Photos Shared for August ’15

Here, have some photos!

Along the Walt Bailey Trail in Washington State
Cutthroat Lake (2 of 7)

 

My Air Zimbabwe ride…

My Ride

 

UW (DC Dawgs) softball team just winning and grinning
CAN Softball Tourney 2015

 

This elephant missed the deep end of the Zambezi River

Zambezi River

 

It’s a door!
Door

 

Bonus! Believe and you shall receive!

 

Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side) ranks as something you should get up off your butt and see.Victoria Falls

 

Narrows Bridge and some red things

Narrows Brewery

 

Me and Dave Niehaus (RIP)
Dave Niehaus

12,281 for August: Climbing Mt. Adams

This August I have a work trip and then will jaunt over to Washington state for a brief time of vacation.

What do I choose to do with said vacation?

Nothing relaxing, I can tell you that.

Instead, me and a few others will attempt to climb to the top of Mt. Adams, the second highest peak in Washington state.

 

August Goal: Climb to the top of Mt. Adams in Washington state (elevation: 12,281 feet)

 

If anyone recalls, I have a goal to climb Mt. Rainer someday. Let’s call this practice.

Although this hike is not technical (unlike Mt. Rainer), they do recommend you have crampons and ice axes for the summit.

And a recent trip report from July states that the temperature plummeted to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrr.

And Mt. Adams is one of the largest active volcanoes in the Cascades Volcanic Arc. It hasn’t erupted in 1,400 years, but now that I’m going…

 

Nice knowing you.

Aspen grove at Conboy Lake NWR with Mt Adams in the background

 

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

Food Stuffs from the Pacific Northwest to Immediately Cram into Your Piehole

There are certain things you know you should be eating if you grew up in Washington state.

As often as you can.

Non-negotiables.

Print this and carry it with you at all times.

Do not delay.

 

Fair Scone
Where: Washington State Fair (né Puyallup Fair)
Puyallup Fair Scone

Ivar’s Fish and Chips
Where: Ivar’s of course! Multiple locations, but we* like Ivar’s Salmon House on Lake Union.

 

Mocha (16 oz, hot or iced)
Where: Roadside coffee stands (Located everywhere, including the Bikini barista ones if that’s your thing…)

 

Dick’s Deluxe Burger
Where: Dick’s Drive-In (Five locations in Seattle and one in Edmonds)
Dick's Deluxe

Taco Time Soft Taco (Crisp burrito is also acceptable)
Where: Taco Time (Many PNW locations)

 

Salmon (Grilled on a cedar plank)
Where: Any restaurant that serves it or any backyard BBQ that grills it
Salmon BBQ

Jo-Jo’s (From the hot case)
Where: Any convenience store/gas station that has them

 

Cream Cheese Dog (aka a Hadley Dog before a game or at 2am)
Where: Any street hot dog stand that serves it in Seattle
Cream Cheese dog

Mac & Jack’s African Amber
Where: Mac & Jack’s Brewery in Redmond or any local bar or stadium that serves it
Mac & Jack's

Garlic French Fries
Where: Safeco Field or CenturyLink Field

 

Chicken Teriyaki
Where: Teriyaki restaurants (Located everywhere. Yelp lists 1,627 near Seattle and 893 near Tacoma alone…)
http://www.seattleweekly.com/2007-08-15/food/how-teriyaki-became-seattle-s-own-fast-food-phenomenon/
Teriyaki

Apples (Get Honeycrisp. Cramming your face in pie form is also acceptable)
Where: Everywhere, but we like Prey’s Fruit Barn near Leavenworth.

 

What would you add? Thai food? Geoducks? Ewww.

 

*We equals me.

Back To My Roots

If the ‘writing’ and posting to this blog does indeed have roots, I am not aware of them. Random doesn’t happen with forethought.

I can say, roots be damned, that I do, as the mood allows, like to string a few words together. Some call it writing. That’s a classification more sophisticated than what happens here. I prefer to call it cuneiform or scrawling.

Travel is a topic as good as any to scrawl about.

As a strange habit, I shoot poorly composed photos of paths leading off into the distance. It is either inspirational or tedious. You can find a sampling of this nonsense on The World page.

I posted a few new ones to the page and included them below.

Fort Santiago, Manila, Philippines
Fort Santiago, Manila, Philippines
Harvard University, Boston
Harvard University, Boston
Capitol Crescent Trail, Maryland
Capitol Crescent Trail, Maryland
Mt. St. Helens, Washington
Mt. St. Helens, Washington
Billy Goat Trail, Maryland
Billy Goat Trail, Maryland
Harper's Ferry and Shenandoah River, West Virginia
Harper’s Ferry and Shenandoah River, West Virginia
Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C.
Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C.
Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.
Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.
Upper Dark Hollow Trail, Virginia
Upper Dark Hollow Trail, Virginia
Tourist Information Center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tourist Information Center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Quad biking, Kenya
Quad biking, Kenya

 

Get back to your roots.

Random To Do List 2013: Washington State

Whenever I return to Washington state (usually during the holiday season), there are certain things I must do, drink or eat. These are not possible in Washington, D.C.

(Author’s note: To avoid lyrical confusion, henceforth: Washington = Washington state. D.C. = Washington, D.C.)

Cut out this list for future reference.

  1. Teriyaki – Dear D.C., you don’t do teriyaki. Why? No idea. So I must get my fix in Washington.
  2. Mac & Jack’s African Amber – Only available in the Pacific Northwest via draft (or kegs from their brewery). Must drink.
  3. Dick’s Drive-In burgers – One Deluxe and one Special. I crave them.
  4. Drive-up coffee stands – No such thing exists in the D.C. area (or the East Coast from what I’ve seen), yet you can’t throw a rock without hitting one of these places in Washington.
  5. Seahawks game – I need to use at least one of my season tickets and go to CenturyLink Field to cheer on the SeaGals…errrr Seahawks!
  6. Skiing – Good places to ski are few near D.C., so I always do at least one skiing trip in Washington (sometimes Whistler…). Lately I’ve gone to White Pass.
  7. Pyramid Snow Cap Ale – What, another beer? Yes!

Happy holidays

Many the Miles

In July and August both my random goals were about clocking miles and keeping the blood pumping. Since this is an exhaustively fact-based blog, I crunched a bevy of numbers and dug deep for timely, hard-hitting analysis. That is a fact.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and shoot our veins with sweet, sweet PEDs.

_____________________________________________________________________________

August Goal: Run 21 miles AND play 3 tennis matches.

  • Running = 10.2 miles
  • Tennis matches = 4

Result: Fail

Analysis: I just couldn’t get off my tuckus enough times to run 21 miles (who comes up with these numbers anyway?). I don’t run more then 2-3 miles at a time, so I have to find more times to run. I did find time to play some tennis. I went 1-3 in the four matches, including a tense, down to the wire loss, 7-6 (7-5), 0-6, 6-7 (7-9). No. I. Didn’t.

_____________________________________________________________________________

July Goal: Run, hike or bike 190 total miles.

Max for any category was 43% of total (81.7 miles).

  • Running = 26.6 miles
  • Hiking = 81.7 miles (.36 extra)
  • Biking = 81.7 miles (2.3 extra)

Total: 190 miles (plus 2.66 extra)

Result: Success

Analysis: Boom! I did it. It really sucked! Peace!

Yeah, this was really hard because I traveled to Washington State for the last seven days. I managed to get a good hike in at Mt. St. Helen’s (8 miles) and did some runs the last few days, including a last-minute (like 10pm on July 31st) 2.5 mile run to pull it off. I could have quit or stopped or said fuggedaboutit. Trust me, I really wanted to. I don’t win anything. I don’t make any money on this. But it’s forever immortalized on this insipid blog, so I went the extra mile to get those many miles. Now you know.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Year-to-date monthly goals success/failure rate: 4-2

See all random goals

Many the Miles

‘There’s too many things that I haven’t done yet
Too many sunsets
I haven’t seen
You can’t waste the day wishing it’d slow down
You would’ve thought by now
I’d have learned something’Many the Miles by Sara Bareilles

Desolation Leads To Wildflowers

On May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted, destroying everything north for miles and miles. Obliterating old-growth forests. Causing the largest recorded landside in history. Transforming the then 9,677 foot volcano into a shadow of its former glory (removing a scant 1,314 feet off the top). Spewing ash into the atmosphere, before raining down like a blizzard in 11 states.  Killing 57 people. Sprouting baby volcanos (called Hummocks) out of the fiery earth. The desolation was complete.

But 33 years has a way of bringing about transformation. Nature cannot be denied. Wildflowers show no mercy.

It was in this explosion of wildflowers, new trees and green poking out of the once desolated moonscape, that I found myself and two others hiking along the Boundary and Truman Trails towards the Spirit Lake viewpoint. Words end here.

Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens
Wildflowers are coming
Wildflowers are coming
Spirit Lake with a whole mess of logs
Spirit Lake with a whole mess of logs
Wildflowers
Wildflowers

Boundary Trail

Find the path
Find the path
Flower
Flower #
Pay attention #
Pay attention #
Stump #
Stump #

Me

Hummocks
Hummocks
Another stump
Another stump

Watch out for the wildflowers.

# These three photos courtesy of Stephanie Zito.

The Best Non-Required Christmas Letter 2012 (Robust Edition)

Happy Holidays. I hope you had a (insert hyperbole here) year. Wait, you say, isn’t the time to give season greetings past?!?! It’s well into 2013 and we have better things to do.

To that I say, this letter has been strategically timed to arrive at the exact moment you least want it but most need it. This has nothing to do with procrastination nor laziness on my part. All part of the plan. Enough pleasantries.

Seven years ago (2006) the first Christmas letter snuck under your tree (mistletoe?) and regaled all that would listen with a smug, self-centered yet snarky update of my year. The holiday greeting card equivalent of fruitcake. No one wants it, but everyone keeps looking at it wondering who will be the first to take a bite. The subsequent four years didn’t get any better. If anything, I baked a fruitier cake with each passing year. Last year I took a sabbatical (approved word for lazy). This year will be different. It has to be. Fruitcake goes bad eventually.

Let’s journey together and reminisce about (a robust) 2012. I alphabetized this letter so it would be easier to skip ahead to letter Z and get back to your regularly scheduled program. I added some color to make the blurbs more festive. They need it.

Arch – As in the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I attended an extravagant wedding in Biehle, Missouri (1-1/2 hours south of St. Louis). The wedding combined both Catholic and Hindu traditions into one unique (but long!) ceremony. Then a bottomless bar and food at the family ‘house’ (with two lakes, woods, a tree fort, a tractor museum, a train for kids and a ‘gazebo’ – read: small house overlooking a lake) made for a fine reception. Oh and I did go to the top of the Gateway Arch on the way to the airport.

Bangkok – I keep finding myself here. What to do? Ascend to the rooftop bars and restaurants (Sirocco, Above 11, Long Table and more) for breathtaking city views, food and drink? Okay. Cruise on the Chao Praya river, gliding past Wat Arun, the Grand Palace and more temples while feasting buffet-style, snapping blurry photos and dancing? Check. A foot massage? Why not. Eat the delicious and spicy food – whether on the street or in a restaurant? Yeah. Hit the Chatuchak Weekend Market and get lost among the 5,000 stalls and shops? Sure. Try a VIP movie experience of Argo? You’re welcome, Ben. Hoist pints of Singha and Chang beers? Done. And done.

Cabins – A cabin needs a name. I gravitated to an assortment of cabins this year. Whether it overlooked the Columbia River Gorge (The Cabin in Mosier), or nestled two miles into the woods of Northern Virginia (Myron Glaser Cabin), or was replete with Christmas tree and decorations only minutes drive from Washington’s White Pass Ski Resort (Mountain Mist Chalet), or kept the Northern California summer nights and frogs at bay (Manzanita Cabin), I was there.

DerechoLike a low blow to the groin, the storm known as a derecho hit Washington, D.C. in June with furious determination. Not even Hurricane Sandy matched its destructive force (I speak only of DC). Crazy winds. Downed trees. Crushed cars. Flying trash cans. That type of day.

Extra Innings – For those in the know (by now…maybe you?), I am questing to see a baseball game in every Major League ballpark. Marlins Park (Miami), Citi Field (New York), O.2 Coliseum (Oakland) and AT&T Park (San Francisco) all claimed my cash and attention this year. Only nine stadiums left.

FireflyDover, Delaware gave us the first annual Firefly Music Festival in July. With headliners like Jack White, The Killers and The Black Keys, this had a fierce cacophony of rock and roll that a seven nation army couldn’t hold back. Three days of bands, beer, food and camping. And after a short respite to the beach to re-charge, more bands and beer.

Goals (Random) – I was bored one day. Hard to imagine, but so. I concocted a plan to do a new ‘random goal’ each month. I went 5-2 (success/failure) in the seven months I did it. Then the ideas dried up and I woke as if from a dream…with a tattoo of a wiener dog on my ankle. Or was that just a real wiener dog nosing my ankle to go outside and stop messing around? See the Goals.

Halloumi – Enter any restaurant in Cyprus and chances are you will find fried cheese (halloumi) on the menu. Order it. That’s the best advice I can give you. Besides gorging on cheese, I explored the beaches of Larnaca and Limassol and wandered the city of Nicosia with the help of a local. I avoided crossing into the Turkish side of the country because I feared there would be no halloumi.

Infiltrator – Let’s call my sister an ‘infiltrator’ after visiting DC for the first time in May. I made her ride the Capital Bikeshare bikes all over the city and tag along to two softball games. We visited many places and other things happened. It ended well. She survived to tell the tale. I hope.

Jazz (All That)A weekend in New York should include a baseball game, a jazz concert, more live music, bar crawling, and a wander about to see such sights as the Empire State Building, the new 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, and Central Park. Also, don’t forget to meander the warrens and streets of Chelsea, Brooklyn, SoHo and Midtown. Eat as much as possible. Maybe some Italian? Or Korean? Or Thai? Doesn’t matter, just eat it and enjoy.

Kayaking – For one week I learned how to white water kayak (in the middle of nowhere Northern California). Our river time was on the Klamath River, but the Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School rested next to the Salmon River. After a long day on the river, there was time to snorkel with the grown and fingerling salmon, cliff jump from dizzying heights, eat amazing food, imbibe homemade margaritas and play Settlers of Catan. Then back on the water. No time to rest.

ListsEvery year I make a bunch of lists to commemorate my best in movies, books, sports and music. They are popular with the ‘me’ set. You can read them too, but it’s better if you just get this letter over and do something fun.

Miami – I hopped down to South Beach in Miami for a weekend. Mission: See a baseball game in the Marlins’ new stadium, eat lots of Cuban food and generally make a nuisance of myself. What happens in South Beach, stays in Vegas…oops, that’s not right…let’s just say, I succeeded.

No more! – Is this never-ending Christmas letter finished yet? Nope. Twelve letters in the alphabet to go…brace yourself.

One Day HikeA minor hike done in a single day. Okay, it’s actually 50 kilometers (or 31.1 miles), but who’s complaining? I finished this mostly flat trek in just over 9 hours. Intact. Yet not without pain.

Paris (Gay) – Cue traditional French music…opening scene: an American (me) climbing the Eiffel Tower. Wandering aimlessly in the maze that is the Louvre. Walking about the city, capturing photographic evidence of the Arc de Triomphe and other famous landmarks. Floating gracefully down the Seine river (boat included).  Nibbling $4 macaroons and chewing cheese and butter baguettes. Taking in the bustle and toy sailboats of the Jardin de Luxembourg. Closing scene: a bewildered American in a wine and cheese infused stupor, slumped at a sidewalk café, never to leave. Music fades…

Quad biking – My work has a hard time avoiding the Lukenya Getaway for meetings. It’s secluded, and far outside of the city limits of Nairobi, Kenya. There are actual wild animals roaming around – giraffes, wildebeests, zebras, gazelles and more – that you can see as you jog or walk down the dirt roads nearby. One day we took some quad bikes for a spin in the bush. At least one person (not me) crashed into a tree…

Running – My favorite use of running is to escape a mother bear protecting its cub. My second favorite use is to not run at all. Sadly, I didn’t get to use it for either purpose this year. I did run the Semper Fi 5K and a number of other 5Ks on my own. I also tried running more in general (to my chagrin), often running along the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial. The beauty of the Mall at night makes it hard to complain. But I will.

Sommelier – I had quite a time gallivanting about for tastings and tours at wineries in California, Washington and Oregon. I toured Napa Valley for the first time, hitting such wineries as: Rutherford Ranch Winery, V. Sattui Winery, Franciscan Oakville Estates and Andretti Winery before hopping on the ferry back to San Francisco. I also hit a few wineries in Washington state near Leavenworth: Wedge Mountain Winery, Cascadia Winery and Icicle Ridge Winery.

Tea (Improper) – In England, I improperly raised my pinky finger while drinking a spot of tea. The Brits gave me a wide berth. Yet when I wasn’t drinking tea, I jaunted about London just before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (celebrating 60 years as the Queen!) started. I also spent some time in the (robust) towns of Northampton and Woking, enjoying such places as the Racecourse and the War of the Worlds statue.

UDub (Alumni) – I played three sports with our University of Washington Alumni – DC chapter in the Capital Alumni Network (CAN). Flag football, volleyball and softball. Our flag football team did well, advancing to the third round of the playoffs. Our volleyball team did okay but with our softball team – let’s just say, we had fun. I was also voted to be the ‘Sports Chair’ on our DC Alumni chapter board. We also played volleyball during spring, summer AND fall with the Metro Sports League. I did not receive any varsity letters…sniff.

Victory (Sweet) – The Seattle Seahawks had quite a year. For the first time since I moved to Washington, D.C., I was able to attend more than one game. I saw three games at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. They won all three, including a terrific beat down of the eventual Super Bowl losers, San Francisco 49ers (42-13). I left hoarse, while riding my high horse. 

Whirlyball – A weekend trip to Toronto to honor the dearly departed from bachelorhood (also known as a stag party in Canadian parlance) saw four rousing rounds of whirlyball (like lacrosse but on bumper cars – look it up), Japanese izakaya and a jovial amount of adult beverages. Back to whirlyball…my team won all four rounds!

XenophileI travel a fair bit (if you skipped to end of this letter, just take my word for it) and mostly I enjoy it. Here are some stats from 2012: Countries visited = 6. US states visited = 9. Flight segments =35. Airports =21. Time away from home – 2-1/2 months (roughly). Cavity searches = 0.

YosemiteCar camping is all the rage. Just don’t do it in Yosemite National Park. The Park Rangers will find you. And shine the bright light of reality in your face. And then boot you from the park. After spending a night in my car (outside the park), I persisted the next morning and hiked the High Sierra Loop Trail, where I took magical photos of Vernal and Nevada falls, as well as Half Dome, Liberty Cap and anything else that got in my way. Magical in the robustest sense of the word. 

ZymurgyI don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer…wait a second…I do always drink beer! Except when at a winery. Or in Paris. This year I enjoyed many types of beer at many places. For example, at the first Living Social Beer Fest in DC. All you can drink in three hours from twenty-five breweries (each offering 2-3 selections). I also visited the following breweries: Deschutes (OR), Lost Coast (CA), 21st Amendment (CA), Triple Rock (CA) and Magnolia (CA). Burp.

End transmission.

Bonus: My Favorite Blog Posts of the Year (so you can re-read them, of course)

  1. Paris in Photos and Other Moveable Feasts 
  2. Yosemite National Park Survival Tips
  3. Keep on Food Truckin’
  4. 25 for May: Firsts (In Hindsight)
  5. D.C., Which Photographs Well
  6. Reflections, and Other Reasons Mom Washed Out My Mouth With Soap

2013-03-05_1656

2011: Can’t Get Anymore Blue

Welcome. Here, lovingly crafted for your enjoyment (or dismissal), I present my blue mood towards my favorite sports teams.

This also is a tell-tale sign that the end of 2011 is nigh, and I could be writing a bunch of end-of-year reviews. Or something. May be time for you to go on vacation. I am.

2011 was a blue year. Very blue indeed for Seattle sports. Blue is the prominent color of many Seattle sports teams, but that is not the blue I refer to. I mean blue as is melancholy. Blue as in sing the blues. Blue as in break out a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and curl up in front of reruns of Hill Street Blues. Get your shot glasses ready.

Seattle Mariners (ML B – baseball)

The Mariners are hard to root for. They can’t score runs. They trade all their good pitchers for hitters that never produce. They do nothing. It’s depressing. Ichiro’s numbers declined. King Felix didn’t match his Cy Young season of 2010. We traded away Doug Fister right when he was pitching well. You can’t finish much worse than 67-95. And no good prospects for next year.

Success Indicator: 2/10. Whiskey shots: 4

Seattle Seahawks (NFL – football)

After improbably winning their division last season (with a NFL history worst 7-9 record), and then miraculously beating the Saints in the playoffs (only to lose to the Bears), the Seahawks looked like they were back in the business of sucking for 2011. They started 2-6. They lost to Cleveland 6-3. Enough said. Yet, somehow they seem to have poured spinach on their Wheaties, because they are kicking butt, winning five of their last six games. At 7-7, they have a very small chance at the playoffs. But small is better than zero, so let’s see if they can pull off another miracle in their final two games.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 3 (5 if they don’t make they playoffs)

University of Washington Huskies (College football)

The Dawgs started strong at 5-1. Then they started playing good teams. And they got crushed three out of four games. Then they lost to Oregon St. (WTF?) and it looked like the wheels had fallen off. To just salvage the season, they had to whip the Cougars in the Apple Cup. They finished with a 7-5 record, good enough to get a bid to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas against #15 ranked Baylor. Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s QB, won the Heisman Trophy, so it should add a bit of heightened excitement to the game on December 29. But they should have been better.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 6 (One for every loss, and two for losing to OSU)

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS – soccer)

The Sounders had their best season ever. That’s why it’s also the worst. Expectations were high. But not fulfilled. They finished 18-7-9 (63 points), 2nd best in the league. Yet they lost again in the first round of the playoffs. Three years in a row. Erg! There was a silver lining. They won the US Open Cup tournament for a 3rd straight time, tying a record for most consecutive times a team has done this and the first MLS team to do it. They also played extremely well in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions league tournament (24 of the top club teams in North America, Central America and Caribbean) and have a spot in the knock-out stage that starts next April.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 5 (would have been 6, but for the secondary tourneys)

 

Other teams I follow:

Washington Nationals (MLB – baseball)

The Nationals had the 2nd best season since they’ve moved to Washington, D.C. (80-81). I managed to attend 10 games (two doubleheaders) while eating lots of nachos and Shake Shack burgers. Teddy Roosevelt continued to lose in epic ways in the 4th inning President’s race.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 1 (for Teddy)

University of Washington Huskies (College basketball – men’s and women’s)

The men’s team was solid (24-11) and won the Pac-10 Tournament Championship for the 2nd straight year. They beat Georgia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament but then lost a close one to North Carolina.

The women’s team (11-17) continued to suck.

Success Indicator: 7/10

Chelsea Blues (English Premier League – soccer)

The 2010-2011 Chelsea team (71 points) was up and down all year. And finally they were too far behind Manchester United and finished in 2nd place 9 points clear of 1st.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 2 (for letting Man U win)

Seattle Storm (WNBA – women’s basketball)

Yep, they still play professional women’s basketball. Seattle finished 21-13 and got bounced from the playoffs in the first round. Blah.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 0 (no reason to waste any here)

Washington Capitals (NHL – hockey)

The Capitals continue to be an enigma. In 2010-2011 they were again the best team in the Eastern Conference (107 points). They beat the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning four games to zero. Another season wasted.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 4 (one for every loss to Tampa Bay)

DC United (MLS – soccer)

DC United played better this year, finishing 9-13-12 (39 points). But they failed to make the playoffs despite a weak Eastern Conference.

Success Indicator: 4/10. Whiskey shots: 0 (Can’t. Drink. Any. More.)

University of Washington Huskies (Capital Alumni Network – co-ed flag football)

Year two of DC Dawgs’ (UW Alumni) participation in flag football went better. We finished 4-6 (playoff seed #34 out of 58 total schools). Our division was stacked with a few of the best schools in the league so in a different division, we would have done even better. We played #31 Cornell in the playoffs, but lost a close game 20-12. They stopped us on the goal line at the end of the game. Also, we were shorthanded as many of our players were in NYC for a UW vs. Duke basketball game. There’s always next year…

Peace and may the sports be with you.

Flight of the Cessna

When you want to fly the friendly skies, let me tell you where to go. Go to a freshly certified (certifiable?) pilot waving his (probably fake) license from the cockpit of a 1968 Cessna. Bring your own peanuts and check in advance for plenty of barf bags.

The flight of the Cessna set out from Thun Field Airport (Pierce County, WA), flew over the rooftops of our family’s houses, buzzed motorboats on Lake Tapps, flitted by Northwest Trek, invaded the airspace of McChord Air Force Base, ventured over the Puget Sound, escaped the gun sights of the McNeil Island prison, jetted past the Narrows Bridge and had a peek at the top of the Tacoma Dome, all before crash landing on the Lost island.*

Let’s relive the action together…

Too many misters, not enough sisters at Thun Field
Planes of the world
A wing and a mountain
Propeller? Check
Rudder? Check
No banana in the tailpipe? Check

Flight Crew? Check. Pilot (left) and Stewardess (right)
Gauges and yokes? Check
The most beautiful gauge in the plane (depending on the plane)
Whole plane? Check
It's business time
My parent's 'hood

Lake Tapps
Lake Tapps
Somewhere near Enunclaw
Up high, like 2500 feet
Tacoma Narrows airfield and the Puget Sound
Tacoma Dome, I-5 and beautiful parking lots
A smooth landing at Thun Field? Yes!

* The crash landing on the Lost island may or may not have been a figment of the author’s imagination. Much like the finale of Lost, this will remain a mystery.

The Best Non-Required Christmas Letter 2010 (Boring Edition)

Welcome to the beginning of another annual Christmas letter. This is like the fifth in a row. Sorry about that. There is still time to avoid any unnecessary reading of said letter. Point your curser to the ‘X’ button above, click it firmly and then go do something productive.

Still here? Hmmm, your choice…so take a load off, get comfortable (although I encourage you to leave your clothes on unless you have a webcam), grab some coffee (or tea if you’re British or confused), put on your reading glasses, and let the year 2010 flash briefly before your eyes.

I’ve decided this time you need to feel real emotion while reading this letter. I’ve set my sights as high as possible, so I’ve picked boredom. It’s the best chance you have at any intense and meaningful emotion. This letter has been treated accordingly. Wit? Excised. Rollercoasters of adventure? Simplified. Flourishes of indelible insight? Clarified. Word choice? Focused. Overall length? Increased. If you do not feel real, abject and soul-crushing boredom, then I have failed you. I apologize in advance.

Boring or more boring, let’s crack open this nut of a year and pick at the contents until we find something worth chewing on. Spit out the shell, we don’t need you choking while you wallow in boredom.

Cities – I found myself, as Alice in Wonderland might have, in many strange and mysterious rabbit holes throughout 2010. A cornucopia of cities had the pleasure of my presence. Such metropolitans as: Amsterdam, Nairobi, New York, Johannesburg, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cape Town, Medellin, Taganga, Las Vegas, Tijuana, Tacoma and Portland. What went down in all these cities? Remember, this is the boring letter, so you may never know.

Snow – 2010 saw record snowfall in the D.C. area. As the locals affectionately dubbed it, Snowmageddon came in February and snowed the city under 20 inches (amounts may vary) of pristine, white snow (colors may vary). It was good enough for snowball fights, snowmen, tackle football in the snow, shutting down the city for days, overdressing for trips to the local pub, and the trapped, frustrated feeling one gets when your car completely disappears. Luckily I don’t own a car. Hahahahaha. I also went skiing in the powdery snow of Pacific Northwest.

Water – I spent an unhealthy amount of time in water in 2010. Whether it was taking hot showers after playing in the snow, spelunking through a maze of caves carved by a tributary of the Rio Claro, scuba diving with sting rays along the reefs of northern Colombia, river rafting down the Rio Claro, sailing the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, boating through Milwaukee via the canals and river, taking the river taxi down the Chicago river, wading in cool streams while hiking, taking cold showers, riding swiftly through the vast Amsterdam canal system, watching the Christmas light/water fountain/musical spectacle (Los Alumbrados) in Medellin, or singing in the Pacific Northwest rain (off-key), I was moist about 22.44%* of the year.

Air – I also spent my fair share of time in the air. Whether it was paragliding (parapente) over Medellin, flying all over the world in 34 flight segments (e.g. 34 take offs and 34 landings), extracting my head from the clouds on numerous occasions, or simply gulping down my share of the atmosphere, I was high about 30.76%* of the year.

Giraffes – Minding my own business, while jogging near the retreat center we were staying at in Kenya, I found myself surrounded by 14 wild giraffes. They were all looking at me expectantly. What was my next move? Run? Hide? So I simply sat down and watched them cross the road. Boring. I was not kicked in the head (by them at least) nor battered by a swinging neck (witty comment excised). The next day we went on a safari to Nairobi National Park and saw many more giraffes, including two practically on top of our van. Eventually they bolted when our allotment of photo ops was exhausted.

Meat – I am not a vegetarian, but I can appreciate eating less meat overall should you so desire. However, if you do have the opportunity to travel to exotic places, you should by no means limit what you are willing to try. Many cultures are meat obsessed and I found myself in the thick of such obsession. Whether it’s the epic bandeja paisa dish in Colombia (including sausages, ground beef, and the not-to-be-missed chicharrón), an all-you-can-eat bonanza at the Nairobi restaurant Carnivore (including ostrich and alligator), sancocho (a soup with vast chunks of meat displacing all else), chicken mole in Mexico, burgers of all shapes and sizes (including the In N Out burger animal-style), fish soup on the beaches of Taganga, foot-long hot dogs during a baseball game, a blue crab feast on the Eastern Shore (Chesapeake Bay), bratwurst in Milwaukee, Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago (fully dunked in beef gravy), street tacos, and much else, I failed to convert to a vegetarian.

Wineries – Whether it was a day trip to four wineries in Northern Virginia, or a day trip to three wineries in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa (near Cape Town), I kept my sipping muscles busy with a (word deleted) of epic wine tastings and cheese offerings. I cannot express how beautiful and relaxing it is to explore the countryside and wineries. So I won’t.

Breweries – In my lifelong quest to consume the adult-friendly liquid of hops, barley, water and yeast, I toured and loitered in many breweries in 2010. Whether it was the Heineken Brouwery Experience (Amsterdam), Miller Brewing Company (Milwaukee), Brooklyn Brewery (New York), Goose Island Brewing Company (Chicago), Sprecher Brewery (Milwaukee) for a beer/cheese pairing, or any of the other half dozen or so brewpubs I acquainted myself with, 2010 was a banner year for beer. Much like all previous years ever, dating back to 1994.

Flag Football – I started playing flag football in Washington, D.C. as part of a University of Washington Alumni team, along with alumni from 51 other universities. Our coach quit three days before our first weekend of play, so I opened my mouth to ask ‘now what?’ and became the ‘point of contact’ for our games. This of course morphed into me as the new ‘coach’ for the whole season. Word of advice: Don’t ask questions. Luckily this was the UW’s expansion season, so hopefully I can be acquitted of our less than stellar season.

Road trips – Whether it was driving down to Tijuana, Mexico from LA; or driving around Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota; or taking a detour down to Portland, Oregon while in Washington state; or taking the bus from D.C. to New York a couple times; or being a back-seat driver along the coast of South Africa, I spent loads of time in vehicles listening to music, taking in the sights, or getting tickets for not seeing that stupid toll booth.

Bicycles – I haven’t been on a bike in awhile, but in 2010 Washington, D.C. started a Capital Ride Share program that lets you use bikes from dozens of stations around the city. I have taken full advantage of these Radio Flyer Wagon Red, 3-speed, adjustable seat bikes. If you almost get run-over by a red blur while crossing the street, it wasn’t me. I would have definitely (word deleted) you. I also rented a bicycle for a day in Amsterdam. I zipped along the bike lanes and cobble streets, past the medieval style buildings and canals, until my (word clarified to ‘seat’) asked for a break. Then I rode some more.

Hammocks – After liberally slipping uninvited into multiple hammocks in 2010, I finally bought my very own. (You can too: www.colorcloudhammocks.com. If you say ‘Jeremy sent you’ nothing will happen.) I spent at least 5.14%* of my time being lazy in one.

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa – If you’re interested in the wildlife or the scenery, a road trip down the coast of South Africa is not to be missed. If you want nature, you can visit the beach filled with jackass penguins braying like donkeys and mating, you can narrowly avoid running over the ballistic baboons, or you can scamper up the cliffs of the Cape while avoiding stepping on the fuzzy rock hyraxes. You can also expect stunning vistas, (phrase deleted), lighthouses at the end of the world, and sand between your toes.

Lollapalooza (Chicago) – Surprisingly, this is the first time I made to it this annual music festival. I should have gone to one way back in the 1990’s when it first started. Oh well. This new incarnation restarted about 6 years ago and the 2010 version saw over 150 bands playing over three days. I went to two of the days. My main goal was to see Soundgarden – and they rocked! I also saw such bands as Green Day, Phoenix, The National, Mumford & Sons, and many more.

Music – Not usually one to intentionally send you away, but I put together some boring music lists on my blog:  A 2010 Music Retrospective

Movies – Might as well stay away to look at the list of best movies too: 11 Best Movies of 2010 (and 5 worst)

Baseball – My quest to see a game in all Major League baseball stadiums continued in earnest. I visited five new stadiums with no fanfare. Chicago (Cubs and White Sox), Milwaukee, Minneapolis and New York (Yankees) all failed to roll-out the red carpet for me. I also got no love as I watched the Washington Nationals play a bunch of times, including the Major League debut of rookie pitching sensation, Stephen Strasburg. He destroyed the competition with a record 14 strikeouts. Then he got injured later in the season, had surgery, and is out for all of 2011. Sad. The nachos at Nationals stadium, however, were not sad.

Television – Plenty of good TV shows in 2010. Fringe had a great year. Dexter ruled. Community got funnier then anything else. And The Daily Show and The Colbert Report brought us wit and an insane Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in D.C. attended by 249,999 people + me. 

Books – The best books I read were: The Lost City of Z by David Grann and The Passage by Justin Cronin.

Medellin, Colombia – I managed to storm Colombia twice in 2010. Once for a wedding where I acted surprised as the best man and once for the (phrase deleted). I spent most of my time in Medellin, avoiding drug cartels and the FARC. Aside from visiting Pablo Escobar’s hacienda (three hours away), sauntering around the city and shopping malls, climbing El Peñol, giving wedding speeches, being lazy in hammocks, eating all the food feverishly, playing as part of an impromptu band, and other things you might have read about above, I dare say I should really go back soon.

This is the end of the Christmas letter. Did it make you long to watch paint dry? Did it drop you into a deep pit of boredom? You’re welcome.

* Figure painstakingly calculated by picking a random number and typing it.

10 Favorite Hikes in Washington State

(Originally posted February 13, 2007)

Not that you care, but someone once asked me to list my favorite hikes in Washington state when I was about to move across country to Washington, D.C. It got me thinking and I always ‘meant’ to create the list. Well, so much for procrastination, here it is to no fanfare. If you don’t live in Washington State, don’t complain to me that it lacks relevance, just don’t read it. If you don’t like to hike, then get bent. If you plan on going to Washington state, than read this.

I’ve done a good 50+ day hikes (usually between 6-12 miles each) in the state of Washington. Alas, I haven’t hiked in my majestic state of trees, mountains and lakes since moving to Washington, D.C.! (Update: I have since this was written) Such tragedy! They have strange ideas of what constituents a mountain over here. I’ve gone hiking in a few other places, so don’t worry too much. Maybe you’ll get a list of that someday. Don’t hold your breath.

Here are the ten best places to hike in Washington (so far – I’ll get back there someday). Someday I may scan in my pictures but don’t hold your breath.

10. Mount Si (6 trips) – Hate to put this on my list because it’s so crowded and the hike itself is boring (4 miles up!). But once you’re at the top, there may not be a better view anywhere. And it’s just easy to get to.

9. Fort Flagler State Park (1 trip + 1 camping trip) – A military base decommissioned after World War I, it’s great to hike along and suddenly find a lost, overgrown barracks or a gun battlement overlooking the Puget Sound. Like finding your own lost civilization in the middle of nowhere.

8. Ape Cave Trail (1 trip) – Two miles or so in a volcanic lava flume. Yes, underground and yes some spots are a bit of a tight squeeze. Bring your flashlight and don’t watch the movie “The Descent” before going.

7. Hoh River Trail (1 trip) – What is better than the biggest trees you’ve ever seen, a world covered in moss in the middle of a rainforest right on the Olympic peninsula?

6. Point of the Arches Trail (1 trip) – On the beach. With sea stacks. This is the same type of place that makes the Oregon coast so popular. Only it’s not in Oregon, it’s on the very tip of the Olympic peninsula with the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains and the National Park.

5. Woody Trail to Wallace Falls (3 trips) – Walk uphill and get excited as three consecutive waterfalls appear on your right, the tallest being 265 ft.

4. Tolmie Peak Trail (2 trips) – Once you’re at the top of the fire tower you can see Mt. Rainer (almost close enough to touch) and a vista that goes on forever. You can almost see where my parents live some 50 miles away.

3. Cape Alava-Sand Point Loop (1 trip) – Walk to the beach for about 3 miles, walk in the sand and in the surf for 2-3 miles (harder than it sounds) then head back another 3 miles somewhat pleased with yourself for finding such a place.

2. Greenwater Trail (8 trips) – There is this tiny, serene lake (Quinn) with a giant moss-covered log on the surface that makes the whole trip worthwhile. Walk to the end of the log and look straight down into crystal clear water and see every log and rock at the bottom. Then you can continue to Lost Lake. Or alternately you could go to Echo Lake but each time I’ve been there (twice) it is has been foggy and cold.

1. Walt Bailey Trail (4 trips) – Well, this is after all named after my grandpa and I did on a few occasions help build/repair parts of the trail, but forget all that! This is a beautiful area with seven lakes at the top (Cutthroat Lakes) and a mountain (Bald Mountain) that you can scamper up, if you’re not afraid of death, for a view of everything. Don’t jump in the lakes unless you enjoy being a popsicle. You will be hard pressed to find a more beautiful hike anywhere.

The Best Non-Required Christmas Letter 2009 (Narcissistic Edition)

Let’s be clear, this letter is all about me, me, me. There’s no need to deny it or pretend otherwise. This is my chance to brag about what I’ve done, what I know, and how awesome I truly am. It’s where I yell “LOOK MA!” as I hit that bulging hornet’s nest with a big stick. In other words, I speak before I think. And I never expect to get stung.

But since this is after all, the season of giving, I’m willing to cut you in on my conceit. At least once a year, I’m willing to take the focus slightly off me, and give you some attention as well. I’m sure you deserve it. So if you send me your ‘me, me, me’ letters, I will read them (as far as you know). I’m also willing to go a step further and thank you for your attention now, even if, deservedly, it lasts but briefly. So, I am humbled by those that read every word of this letter, grateful to those that skim through it (looking for juicy parts), and wholly forgiving of those that press delete before opening it (even though they won’t know it). Let’s get started.

2009 was a year. Profound. But what type of year was it?

Was it an up year? Or a down year?

Was it a smack you in the face year? Was it a lay quietly in your snuggie in front of the TV year? Was it a throw down your top and drive off into the sunset year?

Did it make you laugh? Did you make you cry? Did it make you sing karaoke against your will? Did it throw caution to the wind? Did it excel in every way?

Who cares. 2009 was what it was. Don’t over think it. Let’s pause here to look at a few of the non-required highlights.

Breweries – Let’s all shout an ode to beer, the joyous liquid. In my questionable wisdom, I made a point to check out a barrel-full of beer making places. In Maryland, the District of Columbia, Ohio, Michigan and Washington. The real question is, why am I writing this drivel instead of sitting at the local brewpub? Hmmm, this letter may end up shorter than usual…see ya!

London, England – Okay, I’m still here. You lucked out. I’ve been to London a number of times over the past few years, but this was the first time I’ve stayed on the East side, in the Shoreditch district. Nearby is Brick Lane, with its overabundance of tasty Bengali Indian cuisine and curry restaurants. Conveniently, the 2nd Annual Stag & Dagger music festival thumped on the first night we arrived. 100 bands in 20 venues, all within spitting distance of the hotel. Of course, we also had to lay waste to messy shwarmas and salt beef bagels (liberally slathered in sinus clearing mustard) sold in the late night walk-up stands. And we drank caipirinha from fishbowls for good measure. Somehow we also managed to visit the Westminster Abbey and Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Room (the underground command bunkers during World War II).

Baseball – In my quest to see a baseball game in every Major League stadium, I added three new stadiums in 2009, in Cincinnati, Detroit and Cleveland. Each stadium had its own charm (like gigantic tiger statues in Comerica Park). In two of the games my team, the Seattle Mariners, lost badly. Crap. The M’s lone highlight was Ken Griffey, Jr jacking a solo homerun. Also on the agenda was watching the ground crew making the field playable after a rain delay, feasting on hot dogs, and other impressive things. Next year…maybe a visit to Chicago?

Leavenworth (Washington state, USA) – It’s a small Bavarian village on the other side of the Cascades. A good place to enjoy Oktoberfest, a bit of bratwurst, the fall foliage, and visit a few vineyards and wine tasting rooms.

Books – Instead of this letter, please read “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson and “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.

Paphos, Cyprus – First, rent a car in Larnaca. Second, learn to drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. Third, enjoy. We took a leisurely drive from Larnaca to Paphos, through a few quaint villages along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We sat on the waterfront and enjoyed a lunch infused with seafood and beer. Then we drove around with no particular destination and no goal. Scenic and refreshing.

Icicle Ridge Winery – Not to be outdone by its sudsier cousin (our good friend beer), I also managed to raise my pinky finger during tastings at 13 different wineries in Northern Virginia and Washington state. Yes, that’s right. I may now qualify as something of an expert wino, even though I retained none of the possible knowledge that I could have attained. Icicle Ridge Winery (WA) was the best of the lot, with a free tasting (11 wines!) and a great setting. Also good were Village Winery and Vineyards (VA) and Chrysalis Vineyards (VA).

Music – I rocked out to a load of concerts (18), listened to a few dozen new albums and used my airline miles to buy a new iPod Touch to keep them all at my fingertips. Of the concerts, I enjoyed Green Day and Chris Cornell. The Barack Obama inauguration concert with a ‘yes we can’ variety of artists on the National Mall was also worth noting. Garth Brooks played three songs and proved why he is still a great entertainer. Of the albums, I enjoyed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘It’s Blitz! and Pearl Jam ‘Backspacer’.

Road Trip (Ohio and Michigan, USA) – Traveling a hefty 2,197 miles through the states of Ohio and Michigan, with your wiener dog as a co-pilot, while blaring CDs over and over, is a fine way to spend a week or so. I managed to attend some ball games, nosh good food, sip some beer, take in a few sights and generally make a nuisance of myself. Especially interesting were slipping about the University of Michigan campus, gaining potential music knowledge at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (none retained), and sifting sand between my toes along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Hiking – I’ve been missing out on hiking over the past few years, mostly because I’d be off traveling or because I’m just flat lazy. So one of my 2009 New Year’s resolutions was to do more day hikes. And lo! I succeeded! I joined the local Capital Hiking Club and managed to trek about Virginia and Pennsylvania. I also did a hike in Washington making about 12 day hikes in all. A majority of the hikes were along portions of the Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia. One day I might have to tackle that whole beast.

US Open Cup Championship (soccer) game (Washington, D.C., USA) – The expansion Major League Soccer team, Seattle Sounders FC, enjoyed a fine first year of existence. They played well, made the playoffs, and broke multiple attendance records. Additionally, all US soccer teams at all levels of play participate in an annual domestic tournament called the US Open Cup. The Sounders advanced to the championship game against DC United and pulled out an incredible victory on DC’s home pitch. We came adorned in blue and green to witness an energetic game and proved that US soccer fans can have a bit of passion for the game. Case in point, over 100 Sounders fans traveled all the way from Seattle to attend the game, while singing songs and shouting like only hooligans can. Oy! Now bring on the World Cup!

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia, USA) – Whether is was camping in the rain or hiking among trillium flowers or standing still to escape notice of that bear or swimming underneath freezing waterfalls or pausing dramatically to allow that rattlesnake to get the heck out of my way or scrambling over rock formations to see the incredible view, I spent a good amount of time in Shenandoah National Park. Thought you should know.

Television – Surprisingly there are quite a number of decent new shows to look out for, including Community and FlashForward. Others to either keep watching or start watching at all cost are:  Fringe, Dexter and Lost.

Truck Bed Sledding – If you think that using a black inner tube or a regular sled are the correct ways to careen crazily downhill, then you are wrong. The actual correct way is to find a cast-off truck bed liner in the woods, pull it to the top of a precipitous drop and then on the count of three, have six or so screaming diehards jump in and hold on for dear life. Sanity and medical insurance not included.

Tower of London (London, England) – The Tower is a sprawling fortress bursting with historical intrigue, death and Beefeaters. It consists of 20 total towers, with the largest, the White Tower as the most famous. Our Beefeater gave us a rousing tour of the grounds and told of horrific beheadings, disappearing young princes whose bodies turned up hundreds of years later in the tower wall, wars, and crazy kings. Basically the history of England could almost be summed up within these walls.

Kruger Park (South Africa) – If you like near death lions, lithely trotting leopards, angrily charging elephants, curious rhinos, trapped in your room bats, baby giraffes extending their necks for food, muddy snorting hippopotamus’, racing zebras, suspicious buffaloes, bashful bushbucks and more impalas then you can shake a stick at, then you’d do well to book a three-day safari through Kruger Park. If you like breathtaking sunrises, curious rock formations, sparse forests, post-wildfire plains, high bluffs with views forever, gigantic baobab trees, dusty scrub brush, flowing rivers, darkness illuminated with spotlights, and an occasional camp or lodge in the distance, then drive around in your white 4-wheel drive for hours on end. If none of this appeals you? All the more for me.

peace and merriment to you and yours

View the Wordle version: http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1507817/2009

Tourist: Seattle

You are in Seattle. You have a car and one day to explore. Your goal is to show someone who’s never been around the city. What to do? Let’s start with…

Hello Seattle
Hello Seattle

 

Kelly Park – up on Queen Anne hill, which is a much photographed, scenic view of the city skyline. You forget the exact street, so you’ll have to drive around, up and down a few blocks before you finally find the park and get your glorious snapshots. Next let’s see the infamous…

 

 

Fremont troll
Fremont troll

 

Fremont troll – just across the Fremont bridge. You just need to take a quick detour under the bridge to see this crazy, giant troll holding his VW Beetle tightly. Now that you’ve seen it, let’s go to the…

 

 

UW Drumheller fountain
UW Drumheller fountain

 

University of Washington campus – where there can be little doubt that you’ve arrived at the exact right place on the exact right day. I practically dare you to find somewhere that can even compare. You have complete reign to pick anywhere! Got nothing? Well, how about the…

 

 

Washington Arboretum – since you have decided that driving around and looking at even more beautiful scenery would be a fairly good idea. You regret not stopping at the Japanese Garden to admire the koi ponds, but feeling a bit nostalgic, you start driving around the local neighborhoods next to…

Lake Washington – and determine you’ve found the ideal distraction. But since you’re getting hungry, it’s time to head back towards downtown, with a pass by Lake Union and…

Ivar’s – for a nosh of fried salmon, crisp french fries and steamy clam chowder, while sitting right on the lake. With a complete view of the city and the landing seaplanes, you start to wonder why you don’t come here more often. Since logic is not part of this journey, you decide that after your lunch…

View from Alki
View from Alki

 

Alki Beach – is your next destination. You want a beach with a good view, even if it’s too fricking cold to enjoy it properly. Well, you soon discover that the weather is not a factor in your enjoyment, and frankly never has been. You’re from Washington after all. Next you decide the next random place you should go to is Ballard and the…

 

 

Ballard Locks
Ballard Locks

 

Ballard (Chittenden) locks – because that’s where you can see the mashup of the fresh waters of Lake Union and Lake Washington with the salt waters of the Puget Sound. Also, you can admire the many yachts and boats poised to pass between the two. With the day slipping by in a rush of fall colors, you believe that a quick jaunt downtown and entry into…

 

Elliot Bay Book Store – will inspire your creative juices. Exploring the nooks and crannies and random isles of books, with no goal in mind, you read a few book covers and then walk out for a look around…

Pioneer Square – to see the architecture and landscapes. Finally, finish the day at…

Beer and cheese
Beer and cheese

 

Pike Street Brewery – with a beer sampler, cheese plate, and a yummy pizza.

 

 

 

Okay, so that’s one hell of a random journey. If you’re a tourist with only one day or just a bored Washingtonian, throw out a couple of the above and make sure you add the Pike Place Market to your itinerary as well.

 

University of Washington
University of Washington
Small Ballard lock
Ballard locks

Don’t Wine About Oktoberfest

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? Such a tough question demands a long-winded response. By here I mean…

Leavenworth – With the dream of doing wine tastings in a slew of wineries, we embarked to this quaint Bavarian village just a couple hour jaunt over the Cascade mountain range in Washington state. Conveniently, Oktoberfest was also in full swing, so the beer options were exponential and the revelers were out in droves. On a typical weekend, this is a nice spot for a day trip with scenery, window shopping, and good eats. We failed at typical and landed instead in the middle of chaos.

Fall foliage – the drive to Leavenworth revealed why Fall is the best time of year. Brilliant colors – reds, yellows, browns, oranges – dotted the landscape in such profusion and vividness, you could barely close your dropped-jaw from the awe of it. Or something like that. I’d show you a picture but I prefer to write a thousand words about it instead.

Silvara Vineyards – after a bit of stop-and-go traffic through downtown Leavenworth and a few miles out-of-town, we arrived at the first winery. It was an unscheduled stop, as this is a brand new place we thought deserved our patronage. We had a brief tasting (just okay), chatted with the owner (friendly) for a few minutes then continued our quest.

Apples – forget Red Delicious, if you want crisp, sweet and sinfully delicious apples, bite down on a Cameo (word up) or a Honeycrisp or savor the juicy Gala. So many varieties are waiting for you to snack on, bake, juice, sauce or hand over to your sinister teacher in exchange for a just passing grade. Even though Washington state grows an unhealthy amount of apples (for one sitting), don’t wait long or someone will eat yours. (Insert Good Will Hunting catchphrase here). We stopped at a roadside fruit stand (well, apple stand really) to stock up on apples and then had our way with apple samples and other good food options being sold from tents next door. At some point there should be more wine around here…

Icicle Ridge Winery – we strolled up towards this fairytalesque locale taking in the sights. Before us stood a stout log house (built like a ski chalet, no less), a good size pond in front, a gazebo overlooking all (too bad it was too cold to stay outside) and a variety of old-fashioned cars and machinery nearby all decorated to the nines with pumpkins and scarecrows and much more. Built by Lou and Judy Wagoner as their home, it was shared with the winery until recently, when they let the winery take over the whole house. The 5000 sq. ft. inside is filled with stuffed animal trophies (niiice bear), a huge stone fireplace and a lofty ceiling. After taking our seats at one of the many huge tables, they started serving the wine tasting. On and on it kept coming. Eleven different varieties…insane pours…and all complimentary. The Huckleberry Riesling and the Three Blondes Gewürztraminer were quite intoxicating. The bottles were a bit pricy to buy, but who cares if you don’t even have to pay for such an insane wine tasting?

Chicken heads and Brat – Oktoberfest has never been for the faint of heart. It’s a fest (parties need not apply) for the stout of constitution and eager of disposition. You gotta be willing chug beer until it flows down your red, tear streaked face. You gotta be willing chow down on bratwursts oozing with sauerkraut until the bile rises from the back of your throat. You gotta be willing to hold back that well-deserved punch to the face of those weirdos over there wearing chicken head hats like its something of a thing. Most of all, you gotta get into the spirit of revelry and debauchery. Since our mission was as the more refined, prim, and proper wine taster, we couldn’t quite walk the line between the two. That’s not to say we didn’t have our beers and our brats and our unthrown punches, we just didn’t have them to the excess required. Burp.

Other wineries – we stumbled into a few other tasting rooms in downtown Leavenworth, but only to keep the buzz alive. Really, at this point, little help was needed. Probably on their own, these would be decent places to go on a normal day, but given our previous predilections, they simply fall into the ‘other’ category.

I like ending on a high note. Out.

Random Snow Play

When confronted with copious quantities of snow in every direction, one may wonder what the best ways to enjoy it are. Here are a few ideas:

Blizzard Bowl ’08   As the New York Jets battled the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field, an epic blizzard waged war on the fans. We were able to fight back by throwing snowballs at each other (e.g. Jets fans) and the onto the field (e.g. Jets players). That it was also cold and wet is hardly worth mentioning as the Seahawks defeated the Jets, 13-3. P.S. I was not among the snowball throwers!

360° Pirouettes   Minding my own business on Highway 410 in Sumner, WA, while blazing through snow and ice, I suddenly found myself struggling to keep control of my non-snowmobile (car). Then I implemented a complete wild 360° and miraculously finished in the same lane, going in the same direction. But not before a big truck slammed on its brakes behind me. Fresh underwear not included.

Night Skiing   A few hours of skiing at Boreal Ski Resort in California, should relax one. Just stay on the lighted runs…they don’t like it when you stray.

Tire Chains and Mountain Passes   Spending 2-1/2 hours to cross Donner Pass, California in chains is always a good way to enjoy the snow. Or not.

Ice slipping and Photo Ops   Watch your step while trying to take scenic photographs of the pristine Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoo. Those that had come before, turned the area into an ice rink of absolute slipperiness. But, as we all know,  any good photo op entails a bit of danger.

Xmas Snowballs for Dad   Possibly the best single use of snow is the making of snowballs. The best single use of any snowball is throwing it at someone. The best single way to anger your Dad is for him to be the target of said snowballs while he tries to free his car from the deep snow. He gets anger management courses for Christmas next year.

Snow stories? Do share.

The Best Non-Required Christmas Letter 2008 (Clean Version)

Once again, I’ve found you. There is no escape from this annually joyous attempt at season greetings. Since you likely have no other distractions; give me your full attention and let’s get down to the business at hand…to put the year that was, 2008, into a little perspective.

I know that the number of Christmas letters you’ve already dismissively wadded up and chucked into the wastebasket, along with all that fruitcake and eggnog you’ve gorged yourself on, will affect your reading of this; so I’ve decided to make it easy for you. First, it’s not a letter at all, it’s an email. No extra energy needs to be expended to get rid of it. Second, it has virtually nothing to do with Christmas. Sure, the title gives you that impression, but it’s really just a dirty* laundry list of all the wackiness that was 2008. Third, stop reading this introduction and get to the good stuff below. Fourth, I try to use simple words for simple folk like you. Sure, this means extra effort on my part, but…wait a minute. Forget it, there will be no pandering to the masses. You get what you get, and like it. Fifth, it is not required reading at all, nor should it be confused with anything relevant and timely that could impact your life in a meaningful way. Sixth, seriously, this intro is over. Get on with it.

Hang gliding (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Let’s get this started off with a bang. You presumably know what hang gliding is. You’ve likely heard about (or been to) Rio. You probably understand the concept of swooping over the tops of high rise hotels. You have it within you to visualize a long, graceful descent onto a white, sandy beach. You are surely capable of wrapping your head around a scene showing a short burst of sprinting with your appointed pilot and glider attached, and a brief, sudden tandem free-fall before catching air and soaring peacefully over every postcard view of Rio you’ve ever seen. Yes? Good job! I’m so proud of you!

The Game of Baseball (Worldwide)
I took in the Japanese version of baseball in Osaka with the Orix Buffaloes playing the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (sponsored by Nippon Ham). What have they done to our beloved game? Only turned it into an enthusiastic circus of bright colors, silly mascots, and crazy slogans! Case in point, “One heartbeat, close to you”, supposedly will entice you to attend a Buffaloes game. Hmmmm…yes, I see. I also saw home games of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Washington Nationals. And boy did my heart skip a beat when I discovered $2 Tuesdays in Toronto!

Safari (East Tsavo National Park, Kenya)
Thirty different types of animals participated in my dusty, bouncing, day-long photo shoot. And not a single one smiled. So disappointing. The closest I got to a smile was from six massive lions feasting on succulent buffalo. Oh, and a baby giraffe played coy for the camera until warming up after I offered her the cover of National Geographic. Sucker!

9:30 Club (Northwest, Washington, D.C.)
Definitely the best venue to see a concert in the city (standing room and balconies for 900), I took it upon myself to see all kinds of bands and artists while skipping between the three bars, each with different beer offerings. I witnessed Super Diamond (twice), Sara Bareilles, The Ting Tings, Cut Copy with the Pre-Sets, Hot Chip, Shiny Toy Guns, and Vampire Weekend. Although this may be the first time you’ve heard of some of these, don’t waste this rare opportunity you’ve been granted to expand your horizons. (Hint: iTunes)

Dr. Granville Moore’s (Northeast, Washington, D.C.)
Fancying itself as a Belgium gastro pub, Granville Moore’s dishes fantastic mussels and frites (as seen on the Food Network) and entertains around 60 different Belgium beers before offering them up to eager patrons. This row house turned restaurant is seemingly unfinished on the inside, with exposed dry wall, and flourishes church pews for seats. Not that anyone would notice with a face full of frites and Framboise.

Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada)
Big and wet. You expected more?

Music
Whatever your taste in music is, remember, this is my list. So when I say that the albums from Sara Bareilles, Vampire Weekend and Coldplay are the ones you should buy (now) and listen to (again, now), then you might want to take heed. Even should you choose to ignore my expert advice, I’ll happily enjoy them without you.

Books
Yes, I read some books, but let’s not dwell on it too much. The two to buy or hold-up the local library for are: “Despite Good Intentions: Why Development Assistance to the Third World Has Failed” by Thomas W. Dichter (the title also acts as a synopsis!) and “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman (an interesting thought experiment on what would happen to the planet if humans no longer existed – can you guess?).

Movies
Some of the best movies of the year included: “The Dark Knight” (a no-brainer), “Iron Man”, and “The Visitor”.

Food
This world is full of good food and by any means necessary, get these dishes into your salivating piehole as soon as possible! Japanese okonomiyaki (pancakes with plenty of what you like), fugu (poisonous pufferfish), Kobe beef (marbled, mouthwatering meat), Dominican mofongo (puréed plantains with pork), Khmer (Cambodian) fish amok (the name says it all), Brazilian feijoada (sizzling stew with steaming beans, pork and beef), Kenyan ugali (doughy cornmeal), Canadian poutine (frites with fromage and fancy gravy), and British cream tea (tea and scones with clotted cream and jam). Oy!

Cherry blossoms (Kyoto, Japan)
What does strolling along the meditative Philosopher’s path, exploring any of 1,800 temples, jostling through the bustling (bursting?) streets of the Gion district, cramming onto crowded buses, and meandering through countless, breathtaking Japanese gardens all have in common? In early April, you can do none of these things without a pink and white explosion of cherry blossoms (sakura) in every direction. And a vast array of sakura flavored sweets, including the cream puff that explodes pink goo onto your shirt.

Corcovado (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Arms wide for a welcoming embrace, the Christ the Redeemer statue (120 feet high) sits atop the mountain of Corcovado, overlooking Rio and its white beaches. Considered one of the ‘new 7 wonders of the world’, the statue commands your full attention from every angle. Then, inevitably, you have to take time to be distracted by the breathtaking view. But, out of the corner of your eye, Christ is still ready to hug you.

Mt. Misen (Miyajima, Japan)
Any sorry attempt on my part to describe the majestic panorama of sights from the high temples of this island mountaintop, overlooking the red, floating torii gate (considered one of Japan’s three most scenic views) and neighboring islands; and the arduous ascent through primeval forests and fiery cherry blossoms to reach it; and the perfect warm instant noodles and crisp Kirin beer bought from the Mom and Pop café at the summit; would only pale in comparison to the real thing. Sorry to disappoint.

London, England
Over repeated trips to England without giving London its proper due, I finally decided to invest a couple of days to really take LDN in again. First lesson: Use the money you theoretically saved on that cheap hotel with a shared bathroom (60 pounds a night) on a Fuller’s London Pride beer and a greasy order of fish and chips. Then go bankrupt. Second lesson: Go see Monty Python’s Spamalot. Third lesson: Take your iPod and stroll around Hyde Park and The Serpentine lake during sunset. Fourth lesson: The village of Greenwich and the Greenwich Mean Time line is acceptable to visit in the rain.

Pub Quiz Nights (Fado Irish Pub, Washington, D.C.)
A rich winter tradition of pencil in hand, sipping from pints of frothy Guinness, nibbling on corned beef and cabbage, writing down answers to random questions, and handing them in after each round – all with the hope of out-dueling the other, lesser teams for cash money – always ended in tears as we failed to live up to our own hype. Next time…

Flight of the Conchords (Television show)
So ridiculously funny, you will surely snort milk out your nose (even if you’re not drinking any!). The title refers to a very low-rent, no gigs, two shlub band from New Zealand, who, along with their manager, get into random misadventures, and then sing about them. As you decipher the lyrics, and nod your head to the beat, keep an extra pair of underwear handy in case a laughing accident ensues.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I’ve lived on the East Coast now for a few years and only just now made it to Philly. So to make up for lost time, we swaggered into Philly foot loose and fancy free. Philly cheese steaks, a Phillies baseball game (World Series Champs!), Broad Street, pub crawling, cheering on the Kentucky Derby while quaffing mint juleps, and a random Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit and you’ve got yourself a weekend.

Malindi, Kenya
Whether seasick while deep-sea fishing; enjoying a fine meal at the Old Man and The Sea restaurant (Hemingway did not make an appearance); staying at the quiet and cheap Cloud Nine
hotel (not in any guidebook); cooking fresh fish in banana leaves; strolling the seaweed choked beaches; or watching the resilient sailboats, made by the local boys from cast-off detritus (flip-flops for outriggers and plastic bags for sails anyone?), brave the ocean’s wind and waves; Malindi is a worthy place to unwind and pretend the world really is this small.

Temples of Angkor (Cambodia)
The Khmer empire was pretty busy between 850-1200 AD, building temples like they were going out of style. Then most of these temples were abandoned for hundreds of years and they became part of the encroaching jungle. Angkor Wat is by far the largest and most well-known, but it’s the temples of Ta Prohm and Beng Mealea that are among the most amazing. These have been allowed to stay mostly overgrown and ruined. There is a certain amount of peace and awe one feels when traversing over and around the tangled roots of giant fig strangler trees and the tumbled stones and carvings that once were grand galleries and massive buildings of ancient kings. At least it seems that way, if I do say so myself.

Blog
Can’t wait until next Christmas for another injection of insipid, indelible insights? Keep track of all the random hilarity at:
www.jeremybailey.wordpress.com

 

 

Bonus Question! (Guess correctly for a cool prize!)**

How many countries did I visit this year? (Hint: One paragraph lists them all)

* Clean version
** No, not really