Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In Memoriam of Joeri Gorter

This is dedicated to traveling, the outdoors, cycling and friends. It is never easy and is a shock to learn that someone you met just a few weeks ago no longer is alive. That's what I felt when I read my email this morning and learned Joeri Gorter was hit by a truck while on his rowing bike last Friday.


The thing about traveling is that it helps develop a knack for sizing people up and in just a few minutes. It doesn't take too long to tell what type of person someone is. Do I like this person? Can I trust them? Do they want something from me? What type of person is this and do I get a good vibe from them? These impressions come quickly.  


The impression that Brian and I got from Joeri when we first saw him rowing his bike up Highway 120 was, "wow, that guy is in pretty good shape. that looks hard, but it also looks like fun." The impression we had when we met him in the Yosemite campground was genuine. He enthusiastically accepted our meal invitation and shared his scotch with us. Right away Brian and I could tell we had met a great character. Joeri told us stores of life in the Netherlands, taught us some Dutch slang, made us laugh with tales of Amsterdam, and his plans to ride all over the US. Brian and I envied his plans. We envied his contagious optimism and attitude.


We met as strangers and departed as friends who planned to meet up in Omaha and Amsterdam for a drink.


We were looking forward to that drink.


Brian and I are saddened about this loss and will miss that reunion.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Yosemite Summary

It's been over a week since the return and now's the time to send out an update on the latest happenings. Work had been pretty busy the last few weeks with all types of stuff, so this was a well-timed break from the action. The trip's purpose was to go out to visit a buddy from undergrad and from the days of working as a clubbie for the omaha royals. It was also a great excuse to quit shaving for a while and see how well the beard look looks. I still have a ways to go on the beard look. The midway point was Sacramento, California, but the destination was Yosemite National Park.

After arriving at Sacramento International Airport late Thursday evening, I grabbed my bag off the luggage belt and walked into the cool California night to meet my buddy Brian and Yoda, his 1980s Toyota pickmup truck. What was odd was that for as old as the truck was, there was not a spot of rust to be seen. Oh those rough California winters, eh? We ride off into the night and talk about current events, how things are going, and where to grab a bite to eat. We made the right choice and grabbed some iconic California Food, In N Out Burger. I ordered the Double Double and went Animal Style on the delicious food. It's getting to be 11pm and we roll into Brian's place where I meet Kona, a friendly Chocolate Lab. Kona likes visitors and we play around a bit before I crash on the couch.

The next day we pack up the grill, the food, our bags, and tent. On the way out of town we stop by In N Out again where I actually meet Brian's girlfriend. What makes this notable is that Brian has been dating his ladytype for about two years, but no one has ever seen actual proof of the girlfriend. We hear good things, but never really saw evidence of existence for quite a while. Well, she does exist and she's a nice girl for Brian. I'm also pretty sure Brian didn't hire an actress to play the part of his girlfriend.

We have our Garmin and our directions. We are on the road like Jack Kerouac and on the road again like Willie Nelson. The population density California is staggering...no matter what time of day or where you go, the place is full. It's a huge cluster and it was great to escape all those people. Along the way there was a disagreement between the Garmin and Google Maps. We chose to use Google Maps and ended up near a prison and a landfill. Blast you, Google Maps! We are back on track after asking for directions from a guy out for a run in an orange jumpsuit. Ha!

The way to Yosemite is a long and winding road. The Sierra's many mountains, sharp curves, and huge RVs keep us alert. One wrong turn and you fall long ways. Go bye bye. The only thing memorable about the drive there, besides passing by the prison, was this guy we saw rowing his bike up the mountain road. My buddy Jesse rode his bike cross country and told me about riding climbs that were miles long, but this guy put a rowing machine on a pair of wheels and was going up the frickin' mountain! Craziness! After stopping in a town a few miles from Yosemite, Brian and I roll into the northwest corner of the park and settle into the Hodgdon Meadow Campground, about 45 minutes northwest of the Yosemite Valley. We put our food in the bear locker, popped up the tent, and played a bit of Stratego before crashing. The moon and night stars were shining bright that night! After being in the city for so long, you forget how nice it is to look up and see the stars.

The next day we pack our sandwiches, make a bit of oatmeal, and head off to hike to the North Dome. We read in the park newspaper about this strenuous 11-mile guided hike that will take around seven hours to complete. Why not, we thought. We meet up with Ranger Andrew Smalldon and a couple from Holland at nine bells. What's strange about hiking is your body freezes while standing, but heats up after your feet start moving. We hiked in our tshirts and pants and threw on our jackets after stopping at the top. Along the way, the ranger told us park information, forest ecosystems, animals, and his experiences in other national parks. His stories like the firefall make the three and a half hour hike to the North Dome easier.

Even for being in reasonable shape for the shape we were in, Brian and I sucked wind at the mile-plus high elevation. Slow and steady is the approach you gotta take while hiking at this altitude. The view at the North Dome was spectacular! To the left was Half Dome and to our right was the Yosemite Valley. We stake out a rock, snap some fotos, and enjoy the view for about 30 or 45 minutes before heading back. The way back took forever. We blamed our poor endurance for our slow feet and sagging heads. Ranger Smalldon scared me when I asked him a question about trees as I pulled the bark off of a dead tree. He was like, "Dude, I'm gonna hafta write you up for doing that to a tree." My eyes widened and I was like, "Oh shoot...but the tree's dead!" And then he was like, "im just givin you a hard time...Gotcha!" He and Brian laughed a bit while my pulse recovered a bit. One thing that I must say is that park rangers are probably the nicest and most optimistic people you can meet. These folks always seem positive and why not. You are out in the middle of nature, you get paid to hike on a trail, and you get to wear a cool uniform.

The last mile and a half took forever. I'm pretty sure the last portion was measured as the crow flies and not how the trail winds. Brian and I get back to Yoda and relax on the tailgate. We snack on the WheatThins and watch the traffic whiz bye. The number of motorcycles we saw in the park that day was large. Tons of Harleys in large groups and a few solo BMW riders whose bikes reminded me of the Long Way Down/Long Way Round riders. That's something my brother and I would like to do...one of these days.

We pick up some firewood at one of the turnouts and head back to our campsite. Why buy firewood when you can grab the stuff from the forest for free? While prepping dinner and enjoying some beverages, we see the rowingbike guy coast into our campsite and we do a double take. "Wanna beer?" we ask him as we prepare the yardbird, rice, and beans. We exchange hellos, offer him a drink, and invite him to dinner. Joeri is a 30-something who is taking a break from Holland and rowing his bike all around the U.S. The rowing bike really is a series of complex levers and pulleys. The setup is just like a recumbent bicycle, but the rider does not propel himself by peddling. Instead, the chain has been replaced by a nylon rope and the rider pushes with the legs while pulling the arms. Talk about a full body workout. Joeri was in shape, but he loved cigarettes During the three hours we ate and drank he prolly smoked at least seven Marlboro Reds...We talked into the night about America, Holland, soccer, the president, and many more topics. I think there was some definite bonding going on between Brian and Joeri when the topic changed to soccer. Both guys talked about the soccer players who they admired and all that…that stuff still is Greek to me. The only soccer players that I know of are Zinedine Zidane and Diego Maradona. The activity from the long hike and the good drinks took their tool. At about 930 I hit the wall and was dozing off. It was lights out after about two minutes into the sleeping bag.

My body was still on Omaha time and I awoke at 530. I wondered around the campgrounds for a while and returned with some water for the breakfast oatmeal. Day two would be nice and easy after the 11-mile hike did a number on us. Our feet were sore, our muscles were stiff, and our clothes were a blend of BO and campfire. But to be in a place like this will always puts you in a good mood. We ate some breaky and said our goodbyes to Joeri.

It was time to hug some trees so Brian and I set our sights on some Giant Sequoias. There are two groves of these massive trees in Yosemite, the first was about 1.5 hours away from our campsite in the Maraposa Grove and the second was along the way to the Valley in the Merced Grove. Brian and I picked the closer grove and hiked in to see these massive trees. These trees were wicked amazing! You don't appreciate how big they are until you get next to them, crane your neck back, and try to see to the top. Amazing what comes from nature. In all we saw about 15 of these behemoth trees and were astounded by how they dwarfed other large trees around them. The only bad part about hiking into the grove was that we went downhill the entire way…this required hiking uphill to get out. We took our time and enjoyed the sites…this made the hike a bit easier. Check out the size of these things!

It was back on the road and into the Valley. Ah Yosemite…a shrine to human foresight, strength of granite, power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra. This is one area of the national park that you really can't take a bad picture in. Horizontal trees growing from small cracks in the hard granite, majestic views of waterfalls (when they are turned on), and the pine tree smell affect your senses as you cruise through this place. Brian and I stopped for a quick lunch at the Yosemite lodge where I developed some serious hiccups after putting too much Tabasco into the chili. When hit up the local Yosemite souvenir shop where we quickly took advantage of the $1.50 Yosemite Pale Ale craft brew and found a great spot to admire El Capitan while we relaxed. It was during that time I convinced Brian that El Capitan's English translation was The Lieutenant. Gotcha! We then hike our way to Yosemite Falls to people watch and write some postcards to friends back home. The falls weren't working that day, but nature will prolly turn things back on in the spring. It's gotta be impressive when these falls are flowin during the spring snowmelt. We hung out at the falls for a while and then wandered across a few meadows until we came to Sentinel Bridge where we captured some epic shots of Half Dome reflecting off a calm stream. The foto reminded me of the shot that Rafal took of Fitz Roy when he came down to Patagonia for a while. We hung around the bridge, snapped a few fotos, and visited the small Yosemite Chapel afterwards. Nice little place. Overall, I would say that Yosemite was one heck of an experience and would recommend the national park to anyone interested in seeing some great sites and hiking some of the 800 miles worth of trails

Thursday, September 18, 2008

going going back back to cali cali

im off to californian to hike around yosemite national park

yea buddy!!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Part 4 & 5 annoy your friends with anonymous postcards from abroad

While in Madrid, my friend Greg forwarded me some good information about a couple he and his wife know. Here are the details about them
Names: Joe and Michelle
Address: Omaha NE
Professions: Joe is a Physical Therapist / Michelle is a Physician's Assistant
Children: Joey (1 going on 2)
Current Events: They are having a baby today. They were induced this morning and are still waiting to see the new baby. Some specifics are: It will be a girl, they haven't landed on a name yet, they are at Methodist hospital.
Other Details: Both went to John Brown University, Both play sports (Joe played Basketball, Michelle played Volleyball), Both sing in the church choir, Joe loves to BBQ and watch basketball/sports, Michelle loves fruity candy, Joey can't quite talk yet in full words but you can kind of understand him, Both come from large families, Joe is the oldest of 5 brothers, They live in Omaha NE but weren't born here, Joe used to sing in a Gospel Quintet, Joe is the #1 fan of singer David Phelps, They love American Idol, They have friends from all over and Joe has a brother who is a missionary in the Philippines.
Hopefully that is enough for you to do your thang. I would raz them a little about not having decided on the baby's name as that seems to be something people talk about. I'm assuming I'll pay you when you get back?!? That gives us an excuse to get some people together for lunch sometime and hear your traveling stories.
Aight, catch you lata, enjoy the rest of your trip. 
And here are the postcards...
Hey Gang!
Congrate on the new addition to the fam. What are you going to name the new baby? You know that you cant leave the hospital w/o naming that kid! My suggestion is to name the kid after some Spanish soccer or war hero.
I've been all over Spain and have visited some amazing churches. I think both of you should tryout for the La Sagrada Familia church choir. That church would be amazing to be a part of. Hope your brother is safe in the Phillipines and little Joey is talking up a storm.
See you guys soon!

Jamie wrote...
Joe & Michelle
Congrate on the new addition to your family! Joes is going to love being a BIG brother! Methodist was great when I had my two kids there. We'll have to BBQ when we get back and share stories about all our travels - - - this week we are in Madrid & Loving it! Tonight we will see a bullfight at Las Ventas 0 0 0 the ring on the front - - - Should be fun to see you soon!

for the record...jamie does not have two kids.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Part 3a: annoy your friends with anonymous postcards from abroad

i dont know if the goal was to annoy or just to confuse. but i think it worked.

here's an email i received from my friend Paul. Paul is the guy who set me up with Joe's address.

I ran into Joe last night so I asked him if he had been getting any strange mail. He looked kind of surprised and said that he had. I didn't want to let him in on the secret, but I couldn't come up with a good reason for why I would know about it otherwise. He enjoyed it and said that it has been the topic of conversation with just about everyone he has talked to for the past three weeks. He was convinced that it was his aunt somehow trying to convince him to become a missionary in Morocco or Spain. Anyway, I'm glad your trip went well and thanks for the fun.

Part 3: annoy your friends with anonymous postcards from abroad

This is my third and final postcard to my friend-that-I-never-know named Joe. The postcard says
Papa Joe
I know a guy like you would appreciate a postcard like this. Nothing but love coming from Madrid, baby! You gotta see this place. It's a Spanish version of New York or Chichage, except people speak a different language and dress sharper. Ive seen some excellent street performances that you would appreciate from your RoadShow days. Nothing like a good street performance to get the say started off right, ya know.
Take Care, see you on Ragbrai.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Why Can't Omaha Be Biker Friendly Like Barcelona

This entry is dedicated to biker awareness on the road. So I'm returning from the grocery story about an hour ago and have one of my panniers full of goods. I'm at the stoplight behind a car...Stationary. Unclipped from my pedals. Waiting to go northbound on 50th and Dodge. I'm not going slow...I'm stopped when this wife-beater-wearin-jerkstore tried to run me off the rode while waiting at the stoplight. This idiot leaves the road, drives onto the sidewalk and pulls up beside me. Ok, he's driving on the sidewalk now and yells at me, "Get the f-off the f-in road." Being tired, hungry, hot and sweaty did not help my patience. My blood began to boil, I took a look at the guy and I'm like..hmm, "Well, D-A, looks like your the one who is off the road...why dont you respect the riders." Now, I'm never really one to start anything...but I'm not the type who is going to back down if i get pushed. We exchange a few more niceties and he drives off...driving on the sidewalk between the stoplight pole and the building. Curse you Teal BMW with Nebraska plates PYP 754

It's time for Omaha to grow up. Mayor Fahey, buy some paint and mark those streets to make the city more biker friendly...I do have to give Omaha credit...Omaha has made some progress in recent years, but those streets are not entirely biker friendly. There needs to be a shift in thinking. My roommate Andrea said it best that Omaha is at the point where we are like some tweeners are between high school and college. "do i wanna grow up and do the mature stuff...or do i wanna sit in the basement of my parents home, play xbox all day, and never grow up. O-town is at this point and needs to get out of Ma' and Pa's basement and into the real world.

Omaha needs to be a bit more like Barcelona. I have never seen a more biker friendly town than Barcelona, Spain. I'm pretty sure if I travel to more spots in Europe, I'll realize that there are many more biker friendly communities out there. Here's why I think Barcelona's biking community. Many of the biking lanes have a median that separates bikers from traffic and pedestrians. Biking lanes have their own cross walk signs. Bike racks are organized and the ADT-swipe card system lets you lock up your bike without carrying a heavy lock. Drivers respect bikers and bikers respect drivers and pedestrians. It's time for Omaha to grow up and become biker friendly. Plus, the useful thing about taking a bike to a bar is that you can use the bike to lean on when you return home. My friend Geoff from California (originally from biker friendly Ireland told me that one)

im workin on the fotos n stuff...but this weather makes me just want to head outside.

Man Vs. Beast...Plaza de Los Toros...Bullfighting Time!


Bullfighting in Spain goes wayback and whether or not you are a fan of it or not, it's an impressive spectacle. The sight of an angry 600kg-horned beast barreling down full-speed at guy dressed in a sparkling singlet and matching jacket will grab your attention. "Ole," the crowd shouts as the beast sends his horns through the matador's outstretched pink cape.
Below is a tale of our time at a Madrid bullfighting match.
So we hopped off the subway at the Las Ventas stop and climbed the metro stairs to a brown-bricked circular
plaza with people buying/selling food and fans preparing for the match. The quantity of people outside the stadium matches the sight similar to ESPN gameday, except there are no drunk frat boys with letters painted on their chest and no Lee Corso wearing a mascott on his head. Just a calm buzz about the match and people lining up to get in.

Jamie and I picked up a few bocadillo sandwiches and thought about eating them prior to entrance. I asked around and everybody said bringing food into the arena is common practice. Now, being from the States, Jamie and I are accustomed to over-zealous insecurity guards at events like the College World Series where they actually hire Douglas County Sheriffs, Omaha Police Officers, and Delta Security (cop wannabes) to pat down little kids and ensure they dont bring in their own bag of sunflower seeds. Forget about the 31 shootings Omaha had in 31 days last year, our priorities are geared more towards searching fans who want to bring in a 99-cent bag of Cornnuts rather than preventing/solving crimes. but that's my point of view.

Getting back to the story, the Las Ventas event, folks let you bring in anything...I mean anything! 2 liter bottles, cans of beer, hard liquor, full meals...a guy even brought in a whole pig's leg! Why can't we do that in America. Let's focus on the event, instead of profit. So we ate our dinner and drank a Coke inside the stadium where we watch the stands fill up from our 14th row seats. Typically, the cheaper seats in a bullfighting event are situated in the sunny section. We were in those seats and the sun warmed us in the Spring weather.

The stadium is full and it is game time. The drums pound, the horns sound, the gates to the ring open to begin the opening ceremonies. Four bullfighters walk into the stadium on their steeds followed by the junior toreros. To me, the junior toreros are the rodeo clown equivalent that protect the main bullfighter by distracting the bull and maintaining its level of anger while the main bullfighter changes horses. Instead of barrels, these toreros duck for cover behind recessed panels that allow them to duck and cover when the bull gets a little too close. The participants do their song and dance and everybody saw how well-trained these horses were. According to rider command, the animals marched forwards, backwards, and sideways in a variety of cadences and trots. Pretty cool, actually. When that finished, the real fun began. Man vs. Beast. The fight begins with a single horse mounted bullfighter waiting in the ring. The main door opens and a horned beast charges at full speed. It's looking for something to take out its aggression on. The bullfighter sees the 600kg animal coming and starts to move. Because of it's ability to quickly turn and easily accelerate, the horse has the advantage in the fight. It's all about angles in this fight. The bull gets close enough to feel the horse's tail, but the bullfighter steers the horse enough to be a safe distance.

For a long time I always thought bullfights were just a guy in spandex and a bull plowing through a red cape. Well, that's not exactly how things happen. Bulls die in the match. The bull's death takes about 15 or 20 minutes and it's pretty bloody. The end of the bull begins with the bull chasing the horse for a bit. The bullfighter is then handed a long barbed shaft. With shaft, the bullfighter charges the bull and jabs it into the bull's neck, staining the black coat deep red. The bullfighter jams two more long barbs into the bull's neck and is then handed three smaller, dagger-sized barbs. With the smaller daggers, the bullfighter gets almost parallel with the bull and crosses over his body to jab the barb into the animal's neck. This is a pretty complicated move considering all the moving parts going on. The bull is tired. It's not as quick as it once was and from our seats you witness how heavily the animal is breathing. At that time, the bullfighter gets off of his horse, grabs a pink cape, another barb, and approaches the bull. The bull aims its horns at the cape but only plows through the air. This goes on for a few more minutes and the bullfighter successfully plants a few more barbs into the beast's neck. The bull is near the end when the red cape appears. The junior bullfighters appear from their recessed doors and begin to waive their pink capes on the sides of the beast to ensure the bull is sufficiently exhausted and blinded. You too would prolly go blind if someone stabbed you in the neck a dozen times. The fights ends when the bullfighter takes a long sword known as a muleta and thrusts it between the shoulder blades and into the heart of the beast. The bull stiffens for an instance and then goes limp. Maintenance then comes in to drag the bull out of the ring. A harness is fastened around the bull's head and horns for three mules to drag the animal away.

steak anyone?

Without a doubt, bullfighting is cruelty to animals, especially when the bullfighter misses with the muleta and has to retry a few times. the crowd was not pleased when that happened.

Jamie and I saw around eight matches that evening and the scariest event occurred on the second fight. You know how I mentioned man vs. beast and how the bull usually dies? Well, in this match the bull at least got a few good shots in and really hurt the bullfighter. While the bullfighter is putting barbs into the bull's neck, he will perform some elaborate tricks on the horse while the bull is chasing it. One of those tricks included a pirouette where the bull slowly follows the horse and then the horse does a 360 degree turn right in front of the horned-beast. This trick worked well when the bullfighter would turn into the ring, or the open area. Well, we witnessed the horse turning into the wall and towards the bull. The bull was waiting for him and dug its horns into the horse and knocking the rider down. It only lasted a few seconds, but the crowd went silent, the white horse we bloodied, and the bullfighter's head was injured. They got him out of there, but talk about bloody. yaowza

Monday, June 02, 2008

more photos coming!

There's something about sitting in front of a PC for nine or 10 hours a day...it makes you wanna get out of the office and do something else as a stress release.

Here are a few fotos from Morocco. I was kinda hesitant to pull out my Nikon, so I used my Fuji because it was small. Losing the Fuji wouldn't have been as bad as the Nikon.


more photos will be coming


more fotos are comin up!

There's something about sitting in front of a PC for nine or 10 hours a day...it makes you wanna get out of the office and do something else as a stress release.

Here are a few fotos from Morocco. I was kinda hesitant to pull out my Nikon, so I used my Fuji because it was small. Losing the Fuji wouldn't have been as bad as the Nikon.


more photos will be coming


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

pics are coming

I’m still in the process of catching up on work, sleep, and this home buying thing. All this gets in the way of putting up the fotos…they should be up before the end of the week.


curse you, jet lag...adventures in coming home

it's 4am. I'm wide awake.

returning to Omaha was a quest. Traveling was a chore with the timezone changes, three flights, waiting, whining kids in front of us, a grumpy guy behind us, and low blood-sugar levels the last two flights. From the door of our hostel to the front door of my place, we made it in around 27 hours. Because traveling solo or with another person is stressful enough, I have to empathize with people traveling with kids through these terminals. Talk about a challenge to navigate through insecurity, to find something to eat, to keep the kids occupied, and to not lose any of the kids. I gotta hand it to the folks who travel with kids.

Jamie and I returned from the bullfight and a short trip to eat at around midnight where we packed up all our stuff and grabbed about five or six hours of rest before we checked out. The hostel we stayed at was quite in the sense that you never ran into any of the other guests, but noisy for the fact that a bar and restaurant were located directly below us. Because Madrid is famous for it's nightlife, people will stay up well past sunrise. This meant that earplugs were a necessity. But because we didn't want to miss our flight, we got the chance to hear everything happening in the streets. That night an intense game of drunken soccer with a crushed beer can occurred. Soccer is fun, but not at 3am and not along a street that echoes quite well. Sleeping didnt happen well. We awoke, showered, paid our rent, and made our way to the subway. As a sidebar, it's funny how you dont see the people we saw during regular business hours. I suppose junkies, winos, pimps, and prostitutes sleep in...and we were in a good part of town, too. With our backpacks draped around us we navigate our way past some nefarious and questionable activities happening in plain daylight to the metro. It's six am and the people on the train are zombies. Jamie and I are the only ones without bloodshot eyes, slow shuffling, and droopy heads. Across the platform was a guy in a group of three that couldn't stay awake. So, his friends did what intoxicated guys would do...flick him in the ear with their fingers and joke around with their buddy who falling to sleep while standing up. Some things dont change, no matter where you go. The hour-long train ride gets us to the terminal where we check in and make our way past the insecurity checkpoints. No 3-1-1. No "please remove your footwear, sir." Just pass your belongings through the xray and get on with your life. I always sigh in exasperation when passing through TSA insecurity. They do their routine because they are told to, right?
Because we got to the terminal early enough, Jamie and I were able to secure seats next to the bulkhead. The good news was the extra legroom. The not-so-good-news was the positioning right behind first class. Their food, wine, champagne, movie selection, Bose noise-canceling headphones, and comfortable seats were just feet away. sigh...maybe next time if I work a bit harder, I can enjoy that luxury. On this flight is where I meet a grumpy guy who I will call Lex Luther. I dont think that Lex liked my presence in front of him because we were the same height, but he didnt have the leg room that I enjoyed. So Lex gave me a few dirty glances whenever i got up from my seat to use the restroom, stretch, or grab something from my bag. Getting to the terminal early paid off. Lex should have learned from Richard Nixon who said you gotta make hay while the sun shines.
So...anyway you look at it, these flights from Europe are long. "Excuse me, ma'am...How many hours will this flight be?" "Long." That should be the only response. The flight was nine hours from Madrid to Miami. With the prebording and safety briefings, we were in our seats for a little over 10 hours. We arrive in Miami and pass through immigration where we stand and wait for our bags before passing through customs. While we wait for our bags, Lex makes another appearance and tries to squeeze Jamie out of her waiting spot by the baggage carousel. His maneuvering and strategy to be the first person to grab the bags off the carousel was all for naught when the the carousel rotated clockwise away from him, instead of counterclockwise like the carousels beside us. People go nuts when they want their baggage right as it comes off of the carousel. They will crowd right beside the entrance to be the first to grab the stuff and must not realize this mechanism does rotate in a circle. Lex was not happy about the bags moving away from him and Jamie was a bit miffed because this guy tried to box her out like a bball player. He's lucky Jamie didnt throw an 'bow to the gut. We get our stuff after a 20-minute wait, pass through customs, and drop our backpacks off at the luggage connection. But because the international and domestic terminals are separate, we get to pass through insecurity again and do the ol' 3-1-1 and please-remove-your-shoes routine. Arg. We get through that and make it to our gate for the 2-hour layover and watch the same 30-minute CNN news broadcasts a few times. We are both pretty tired and our blood sugar levels are pretty low. We grab a bit to eat and make it onto Dallas where our next flight to Omaha had a Nanny 911 potential. The family of five was spread between two rows where the two young sons (think the twin boys from Desperate Housewives but not as mischievous) were in their own row with the Mom, five-year old daughter, and Dad behind the boys. The dad plugs his iPod in and tunes out while mom leans her chair back onto my knees, removes her sandals, and puts her feet between the seats ahead of her and tells the boys to behave. We thought, "oh boy, here we go." The kids were pretty rowdy until take off where the dim light puts them to sleep. Jamie and I were thankful things quieted down because we were getting to the end of our patience after being up for over 24 hours. When we landed in O-town we were in a much better mood because we were home. The two boys on the plane awoke and the first thing you hear was, "Daaaad, Jake slobbered on me!" to which the dad replies, "That's not slobber. Honey, can you grab me some napkins?" During the course of the flight, Jake had thrown up onto his brother! And to think that the sour smell was my unwashed sandals!  Jamie and I empathized with the family and were glad to see they hung around to clean up the mess. You gotta hand it to families who travel with kids...You people are a brave bunch.
The airport pickup is always the next daunting task at the end of a journey. Anyone who has flown knows the frustration that occurs when your ride is not on time to pick you up. Long ago my folks would say, "just call us when you land and then we will leave for the airport." This policy has lead to days where the noses of family members get bent out of shape for the fact that waiting outside the Omaha airport for your dad is frustrating...especially when your dad is a guy who will get stopped for slowing before he gets stopped for speeding. Especially when he never travels and gets to experience the waiting! This did not happen on this trip. Ma and Pa were right there for the pickup and waited a minute or two for our bags to arrive and we were off. We were exhausted and my parents wanted to talk about the trip. It was nice to see my folks after a long trip and we are very thankful for the timely airport pickup. Thanks guys!
So we are back and we are still getting used to the seven hour timezone difference. My boss said yesterday that the adjustment period takes about one day for each hour of timezone you pass through. Jamie and I are looking at around seven days before our bodies are caught up. Sounds about right since I woke up at 330 and 430 yesterday and today. It feels great to get some rest, enjoy prices that are in dollars, and drive my own car again. Europe was a learning experience and I'm glad Jamie and I went for the two weeks. More stories to come. In future postings you will get to learn about: Missing remote controls. The Dolce Vita hostel (three roach rating by Lonely Planet), and some out and about stories that you may find entertaining. It's time to get ready for work. 


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

and were back...

It's nice to be back in the lower 48. Everything seems to be on sale after experiencing the Euro for two weeks.

I brought back a gift for everyone. High gas prices. You can thank me later.

More stuff to come as I backfill many of these stories. Pics should be up later this week.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fight Night...No Bull!

This should be an exciting and interesting event.
Jamie and I are going to see a bullfight tonight.
now how many times do you get to see man vs. beast? not too many times.
more details to come.

Friday, May 23, 2008

back in madrid

lots of things to see here in madrid

today its raining...but we are planning to see a bullfight, tour real madrids stadium, and enjoy some great food

yesterday, jamie suggested some patatas bravas with beer...mmmmm they hit the spot

anyways, back to seeing the sites


jp and jw

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Part 2: annoy your friends with anonymous postcards from abroad

Time for a new postcard to my new buddy, Joe!

GI Joe!

What´s up, buddy! The Sagrada Familia is a piece of work! Amazing! I wish you could see this, but wait...you are busy studying physics and prepping to become a teacher. Perhaps you can mold the minds of tomorrows leaders the same way that Gaudi molded this church together. See a lot of street performers here. What a great way to earn a living, juggling for dollars...err...make that Euros. See you soon, buddy!

That´s all i got.

Out and About in Barcelona part 2

More fun out and about in Barcelona...

Today we went to another art museum, went to see Olympic Stadium, and went back up to Park Guell...

Will back fill this blog entry when i return.


Out and About in Barcelona

Thank goodness for comfy sandals because Jamie and I did quite a bit of walkin...

More details to follow about:

La Sagrada Familia

St. Joseph's Market

Gaudi Gaudi and some more Gaudi

Enjoying Vegemite!

will prolly have more time to fill in the details when I return.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

And Now...Barcelona

just got here and the hostel is pretty cool. more to come after a bit of rest

Just a few quick tidbits as internet time is a bit costly.

Below are some pictures from Park Guell and the Gaudi Gardens. Very impressive mosaic tiles. Also, is a picture of our tiny hostel room. Very little breathing room, but clean and cozy...right?

Some quick things I´ll write about when I get some more time is the visit to the Garden, my first Vegemite experience, and whatever else i feel about. also, more to come when i find a better keyboard...this one is a bear to type on. arg!

Friday, May 16, 2008

We are in Spain!

We arrived back in Spain yesterday and did a bit of walking around.

We also saw El Museo de Jamon or the Ham Museum. Good eats here!

More to come when we have a bit more time.

Here are just a few pics of what we saw...


JP and JW

Part 1: annoy your friends with anonymous postcards from abroad

The lucky guy to receive my anonymous postcards from abroad is Joe Kohlhaas. Joe just graduated with a degree in physics and wants to be a teacher. He is pursuing his masters degree in physics and used to sell gelatos on RAGBRAI. His girlfriend's name is Shiney.

I wrote a little postcard to Joe and it said something like this...

Dear Joe, we could sure use some of your physics handiwork here in Morocco. its just chaos here. chaos
if physics doesnt workout, you can alway sell gelatos. it gets pretty hot in the desert...mmm gelatos!

Two or three more postcards to go and he will be thoroughly confused.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Out and About in Morocco

The past few days in Morocco have been an adventure and we have successfully blended in with the local population. We have assimilated with the culture and customs...just like Dr. Marcus Brody did from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. we are enjoying many of the local foods such as McDonald's, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Dunkin Donuts. Ahhhhh...only in Morocco can you get culture like this.
Actually the past few days have been fun, but we still stick out for a few reasons like: 1. we are tall. 2. we are pale. 3. our clothing is much different. 4. we walk around and look up at all the different buildings. 5. beggars bother us. Oh well, it happens i guess. We have been wandering around the different streets for the past day and have tried some of the local food. The mint tea is excellent and may be our new choice drink for the next few months. The street markets have lots of brightly colored fruits and veggies and you are encouraged to haggle for price. One thing that has made me consider becoming vegetarian is seeing the chickens couped up in tiny cages. Think about five or six chickens penned up in a crate smaller than the size of a apple box. Turns you off to yardbird pretty quickly ya know...
Jamie and I would like to share a fun experience or two with you. The internet cafes here are a bit expensive, so a full story will be provided after the return. The first story is about my first experience with a barber. I'd been growing a beard for the past three weeks before traveling and saw a barber giving a guy a shave with a straight blade while strolling through the streets of the Petite Socco. A straight blade cut has been something I've always wanted to try, so i thought...why not? what's the worst that could happen, right? Pushing those thoughts aside, I get the barber's attention, rub my hairy chin, and raise my eyebrows. He understood and was like, "you bet, take a seat." I spent a few minutes waiting until Mohammad finished with his existing customer. After that guy left, I was leaned back in the barber's chair in a position where I could see all of the diplomas Mr. Mohammad Chomrikh had earned. I felt a bit safer knowing he had some training. He readied his chair and began prepping my beard. The warm later relaxed my face and soon after Mohammad was cutting away. I gotta hand it to him. This guy knew his trade and I have never had a shave so close. After getting all the hair and stubble off, he would run his fingers across my upper lip and face to feel for any rough spots, then he touch them up with his blade. This guy was a pro and my face was incredibly smooth. I paid the 30 Durhams (~ 4 bucks) and thanked him for a great shave. If you ever get a chance for a shave with a straight blade, do it...it's well worth the feeling.
the second story has to do with an experience we had with a man named Rahdish. Jamie and I had finished up lunch at the Medina and were making our way up towards the Kasbah when a gentleman told us we were headed in the wrong direction. He graciously offered to take us and give us a small "tour". The nickle and dime tour consisted of a little bit about Moroccan history, the Kasbah, the port, some of the famous figures who had visited cafes around the museum. We were kinda skeptical of the guy when he talked about Mick Jagger dined at this one restaurant, but the foto we saw at the place was of Kieth Richards. Close...sort of. Rahdish was a friendly guy and Jamie and I were about to pay him for his time, when he was like, "come mai friend, I show you great view of Tangier."
We felt obligated to the guy, so we followed him into this rug store and went up five floors of decorative rugs and swag to the top of the building. Yea, the views of Tangier were great, but this is where he hit us with the guilt trip. We took our fotos, said thanks, and handed him the 20 or so Durhams that we had. For 15 minutes of his time, we thought it was a pretty good deal. Right? Well, he says, "for me to bring you up here, my friend charges me 50 Durhams." Jamie and I look at each other and were like, "we knew this was too good to be true." I did have an additional 50 Durhams in my pocket, so the guy started to shake his head and say things like, "i do this for you, mai friend, and this is all you give?" We told him we were sorry and that is all that we had. He leads us down the stairs to a room that now had three guys in it. "Oh, boy, we thought..this is where we get robbed" The shop keeper wanted us to stay around and hear his sales pitch about all the things we could buy. "No pressure" was repeated a few times. Jamie and I looked at each other and were like, "get me the heck outta here." We left the building in haste and Rahdish was still pressuring us for payment. Any gift will do is what he said. I opened my bag and pulled out some wetnips, a straw, and a my camera bag. We really had nothing else. He suggested a pen as a gift, but we didnt have one of those. We felt guilty, departed ways, and then walked double time back to the Medina where there were plenty of people.
The experience was a bit scary for what could have happened. Looking back on the incident, it could have been a lot worse and we quickly learned that nothing is for free. Turns out, the nickle and dime tour ended up costing us about 10 bucks and a bit of stress.
Hope all is well!
jp and jw

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Greetings from Abroad

Spain and Morocco are here! Wish you were beautiful
...wait..i always get those mixed up.

anyways. We have recovered from the long flights and are expecting lots of fun from these two countries. Today we are in Morocco and the sweet smell of diesel fuel exhaust smacks you in the face when you step on the streets.

Tangier is a departure from life in the US. Definitely different.

More to come a bit later.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

And We're Off!

After a two-year one-month and nine-day wait, things are packed up and ready to go.
It's time to travel again!
The Big Day is Here!
I've been running around the last few days tying up loose ends, working, seeing some friends, putting in the garden, hitting the taco ride, and finishing up the last bit of schoolwork. Finally it's time to enjoy this trip. Jamie and I are excited to travel together and see a new part of the world. Hopefully the airlines will have their act together and we won't be seeing the insides of the airport too much. Not sure if the whole rewiring thing effects our planes or our schedule much. Sitting in an airport during your PTO is never fun, we purchased travel insurance for a few dollars to at least assuage the pain of sitting in an airport or having something stolen.
We leave for Chicago late this morning and will arrive in Spain early tomorrow morning. Because Sunday is a day of rest in most parts of the world, things in Madrid will be shut down and not nearly as hellish to navigate through. This should give us time to recuperate and plan our week a little better. I emailed the hostel to double check the reservation and inquired about the possibility of a futbol game. They responded and said there is a game Sunday night at 9 bells. Perfect! Jamie has never been and she will definitely enjoy it. I gotta say that soccer is the world's game. The sport carries more weight than the Olympics for the fact that a country will shut down while their team plays. Friends I met in Argentina say that the city becomes a ghost town and the 9 de Julio will empty, kids stay home from school, and parents head to friends homes during World Cup to observe the match. The passion for soccer puts any college or pro football fan base to shame. Hopefully Jamie and I will catch a good match. 
We will be gone for ~two weeks and will be backpacking. The whole backpacking thing reminds me of a person I knew who was going to Europe and preferred a suitcase to carry their belongings. They insisted they didn't need a backpack. But my question was, have you ever heard of someone suitcasing through Europe? Never! It's always backpacking somewhere, never suitcasing. Do you hear stories that start out like, "Yea, remember the summer time after college I spent suitcasing through Europe...best time of my life, man." Suitcasing sounds so inflexible and informal that I bet Bill Bryson would make fun of you in his next book if he saw you traveling with this huge box on wheels. Anyways, take it for what it's worth. I like backpacks because they are easier to handle, your hands are freed up and you can easily move through a crowd without taking out too many people.

Here's a little description of what we've packed inside of our two packs. 
I learned a great trick from my friend Dean Jacobs who recommended to group related items into sweaterbags. I tried this on my last trip and it makes packing/unpacking simple. Instead of unpacking five pairs of socks, you unpack the sweaterbag of socks. I have about five things to unpack now. Here's a quick break down of what im bringing and fitting into my Arcteryx Bora 80
  • Five shirts: two long sleeve, short sleeve, formal (sort of) and a sweater.
  • Two pairs of pants: one pair jeans the other are my North Face convertible pants/shorts
  • Belt
  • One pair of Chacos
  • One pair of nicer shoes
  • Two pair of socks
  • Four pairs undies
  • Two jackets: one rainjacket, one fleece
  • Shaving kit with various toiletries
  • Journal
  • Something to read
  • headlamp
  • Nikon D40x pretty excited to take some cool shots with my new D-SLR.
Jamie packed along the same lines, but maybe a little more stuff. Here's the thing though...She's lucky because she's much smaller than I am and can fit more into her bag than I can. She's a packing machine.

Anyways...I'm off to run some more errands before Ma and Pa drives us to the airport. We asked them to pick us up a little earlier for the simple fact that my dad drives ~10-15 mph under the speed limit. Seriously, he will get stopped for slowing before he gets stopped for speeding. We appreciate them taking the time to drop us off.

Drop me an email if you want a postcard!



Monday, May 05, 2008

annoy your friends with anonymous postcards from abroad

After a two year break, it's time to break out and travel again. This trip will be Spain and Morocco!

The trip will be a blast and I'm looking forward to marking two more continents off my list. There is a ton to do over in Madrid and I'm looking forward to eating some tapas and seeing some bullfighting.

I'm also looking forward to writing a few postcards. Here's a little background information about me and my postcards. During the last trip, I sent 170-some postcards to friends and family describing various sights and experiences. It's fun to send a postcard and it's exciting to receive mail that's not a bill, right? You bet!

Well, how about this...have you every wanted to antagonize your friend from afar? Well then, listen up. I have established an eBay auction that will allow you the opportunity to anonymously bid on me sending your friend postcards from the middle of Spain and Morocco. You provide me intimate details about your friend and I will write them asking them about information only their close friends would know.

hope all is well and your friend wonders why someone is sending them postcards from abroad.



Here's the link if the embedded link doesnt work.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spain/Africa Update

curse you, weak dollar. you make this trip a 1.5820 times more expensive.

anyways, the hostels are booked. the tickets are booked. and the travel plans are shaping up. stopped by the library and picked up a few travel guides to get an idea of what to do and where to go. because jamie has already been to madrid and barcelona, traveling there should be a bit easier. being able to speak spanish also helps out. traveling to morocco should be fun, since neither of us speak the language...oh boy!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

spain and africa this summer!

friday - received vacation approval from management.

saturday - purchased the tickets to spain and started planning trip details

sunday - gonna search for some easter eggs and figure out where we are gonna stay.

pretty exciting!!!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Seven Continents

Here's the plan...

Seven Continents before turning the big three-oh!

North America --- done
South America --- done - 2005-6
Antarctica --- done - 2005-6
Europe --- this summer
Africa --- this summer
Asia --- ~2009
Australia --- ~2009

These are gonna be some great trips and I am thrilled to do this!

drop me an email if you would like a postcard!