Category Archives: Travel

Be On Your WAZE

Just returned from a short fishing trip to Pensacola, FL and several times I thought about what my father would say if he were here today and exposed to the travel technology that exist.

I suppose the majority of smartphones are GPS ready and can make use of Google Maps. I began the trip by telling my phone to navigate to Pensacola Beach and within seconds it told me to take a right turn at the top of my driveway. Every turn thereafter was given me in advance along with the mile remaining and the estimated arrival time for my destination.

Someplace below Nashville I needed gas so I started an app called GasBuddy and it revealed where gasoline was the cheapest and provided a map. Next was time to find a good motel price so I activated the Travel Coupon app and it told me there an a reasonably priced motel at exit 46.

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Dayton & The Golden Boys

We celebrated our thirty-seventh anniversary back in July but weren’t able to do anything special. Then our daughter called with news about a rock ‘n roll show in Dayton featuring Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, and Fabian. I asked Janet if she was interested and she was. So, I got decent tickets, made a motel reservation and on the 6th of August we headed north.

The concert was held at the Rose Music Center in Hubert Heights and it is a fantastic venue. It seats about 4200 people, all under a roof, plenty of parking, easy access, good amenities, etc. The only negative was sitting on the east side of the venue. This event began at 7 pm and half way through the setting sun dropped below the

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Busted for rum running! Advice for cruisers.

While cruises can be an economic form of vacationing the cost of alcoholic beverages are marked up to the max. If you’re a drinker the pressure is on to smuggle some hooch aboard. Most cruise lines permit each passenger to bring aboard a single bottle of wine and whatever soft drinks they can carry. Beer and hard liquor is banned, however.

We took a cruise in 2014 and I sneaked some Scotch on board by transferring it to a couple of 20 oz brown plastic root beer bottles buried in my checked luggage. Worked with no problem and I was able to enjoy my daily Scotch on the rocks with no problem and minimum expense.

rum runnerOn our most recent cruise I did the same thing but didn’t check any luggage. Instead we carried everything on the ship. When they           x-rayed my suitcase, however, they saw the outline of two pop bottles and asked me to open the bag. They reached for one of the bottles and tested if the seal had been broken, it had been of course. I was then informed that plastic bottles were no longer

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A Yellowstone Tale

My friend Justin Johnson and his faithful sidekick Nikki are currently touring Yellowstone National Park. Looking at some of their posted photos on Facebook brought back memories of the trip we took back in the early 1990s.

justin & nikki at falls
Justin & Nikki

Yellowstone being such a special place we decided to invest in a small video camera to record the experience. So, on the way we stopped at Circuit City in Cincinnati and spent close to $1000 on a camera and a couple of spare tapes. Our son sat in the back of our van and  learned the art of video photography as we plowed our way west.

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Scotland the Beautiful

I’m not Scottish but I do enjoy the occasional wee bit of their whiskey. Back in the 1960s I had the excellent fortune of spending three months in Scotland, courtesy of the US Navy and I totally fell in love with the land and the people. We were the first American war ship to enter the harbor of Greenock, Scotland since the end of WWII and we were greeted as saviors. The hospitality and warmth of those people will always be appreciated and never forgotten.

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A Cruise Vacation

St Martin (4)
NCL Getaway in St. Maarten

Ocean cruising, once a vacation option for the wealthier, has become an enormously popular and affordable vacation option for the masses. My wife and I had discounted ever taking a cruise because of the mistaken idea that it required formalities such as dressing up each evening for supper and/or renting a tuxedo.

In 2002, however, the McClain Alumni Association hosted an all-class Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival ship Sensation. It was a wonderful experience from which we decided cruising was something we’d enjoy doing more of. We just returned from our eighth cruise and have a ninth scheduled for next spring. Thus far we’ve been on Carnival six times, Royal Caribbean once, and Norwegian once and here’s a few notes on what we’ve concluded:

  • The best deals are for those who have a bag packed and can walk out the door at a moment’s notice.

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Four days chasing the sun

Jennette's Pier, Nags Head, March 2014 (5)My brother and his wife are relocating to Florida from North Carolina and offered my children some surplus furniture. So, my daughter Kris and I rented a large U-Haul trailer and headed south and east to Beaufort, North Carolina. She took a couple of vacation days and our intentions were simple, get the furniture and spend some time along the hopefully warm and sunny coast. I planned to fish while she walked the beaches searching for shells.

The Wednesday drive to Beaufort was warm enough but the skies were very overcast.  We even encountered the remains of the winter snowfall in the mountains of West Virginia. The day’s highlight was stopping at Wilber’s BBQ in Goldsboro, NC for a small to go sampler. Our family has faithfully been stopping at Wilber’s since 1983 and consider it to be the best in the universe.

On Thursday morning, after loading the trailer, the plan was to drive over to Harker’s Island for a look-see followed by the afternoon at Emerald Isle at the tip of Bogue Island. On the way to Harker’s I noticed a sign for the ferry at Cedar Island that runs to Ocracoke Island. Couple of years ago we had a house rented on Ocracoke but had to cancel when the place was hit by hurricane Irene. I suggested to Kris we change plans and take the ferry to Ocracoke and then return home via the Outer Banks and Interstate 64. Her face lit up like a flashlight at the idea.

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Danny Masters & Lone Star Beer

Lone Star Beer Back in 2004 Danny Masters and I were sitting on the liar’s bench at the local truck stop talking about traveling. He said he’d never been any further than Kentucky and Eastern Indiana. So, I told him about a BBQ place in Huntsville, TX I wanted to try so why didn’t he and I get in my van and go get some ribs and a brisket sandwich? The BBQ joint was next to and operated by the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church and the lady in charge was 86-year-old Annie Mae Ward. It was known far and wide as the church of the Holy smoke and CBS Sunday Morning laid claim that it was the world’s best BBQ.

Danny agreed so a few days later we were driving through Memphis, TN and headed south and west. We had no trouble finding Annie Mae once getting near Huntsville. We pulled over and asked some utility line workers and they gave us excellent directions and said they never failed to eat there when working that area.

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Long Way Round

Larry 'n NassauOne of my earliest elementary school memories is of reading a story about a young boy living in Malaysia. We were studying geography and I’m pretty sure that story was where I learned what a peninsula is. That I still remember it probably speaks to my lifelong fascination with geography and the cultures of other lands.

I have always loved travel and while I would prefer being there myself I can be content doing it vicariously through books, magazine articles and other media. I’m the weird one who would actually show up if you invited me over and see your vacation slides.

During the past week I’ve been watching a nine-part Netflix documentary titled, Long Way Round. It focuses on the multi-month effort of two British motorcycle enthusiast, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman, to ride a couple of BMW bikes around the world (see map) in 2004. A third motorcycle was ridden by cameraman, Claudio von Planta and a support team consisting of a medical doctor and several others in a couple of AWD vehicles stayed within a day’s drive of the bikers.

What struck me most about their fantastic journey was just how rapidly what we Americans would consider mandatory infrastructure disappeared as they traveled east. All-in-all they traveled just short of nineteen thousand miles and visited thirteen countries. Somewhere in Kazakhstan or Mongolia they ran out of anything resembling a real road and pretty much had to rely on their dirt bike skills to reach the Russian port city Magadan in the far east of Siberia.

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The Pitfalls of Tent Camping

rock bridge
Years ago this was a narrow one-lane concrete crossing. The water flowed over it anytime the creek was up.

I posted a photo of the Rock Bridge bridge that crosses Paint Creek in Fayette County. That photo prompted several people to start talking about camping along the creek and the times they got soaked by torrential downpours.

I’m pretty sure anybody who’s ever spent much time in a tent can recall waking up in a pool of rainwater and spent the rest of the night wishing they were anyplace else on earth. When we were kids we spent lots of summer nights camped somewhere along Paint Creek and its tributaries. The tents we used were surplus WWII Army tents. Each soldier was meant to carry half a tent, one pole, and a few wooden stakes. At night a couple of guys would buddy up and put their halves together to attain a little shelter from the elements.

These canvas tents had no flooring and keeping dry required digging a diversion trench around the perimeter of the tent to carry away run off. If it rained too hard the trench

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Lowe Mill Art and Entertainment Center

Larry 'n NassauIf you enjoy the creations of artist, artisans, musicians, and creative people of all kinds, and you’re near by Huntsville, Alabama, you need to consider a visit to Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment Center.

Lowe Mill began life a hundred years ago as a cotton mill which later became a shoe factory. Even later it was reborn as a central location where artist, artisans, and musicians could create, display, and vend their works. Over a hundred creative people have studios on the three floors of the mill, each housed in an aptly sized cubicle. I have a niece, Erin Michael, who has a studio on the ground floor where she creates one-off pieces of silver jewelry and decorative wall art made with silver chainmaille.

The second floor houses what is referred to as The Flying Monkey and occupied by a group of free thinkers that are definitely throwbacks to the 1960s. When I walked through

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Shark Fishing on Steroids

Larry 'n NassauOver the years that I’ve been salt water fishing I’ve caught any number of sharks. I always told myself while swimming in the ocean that sharks were not common and hung out further at sea. That myth got busted when I began fishing in the very waters I once swam in.

The most common shark is the dogfish and is a valued food source. If you do any bottom fishing in and around the coast of North Carolina you’ll eventually hook up a dogfish. They are so common they are considered a nuisance. I don’t target sharks and all I’ve caught have simply been coincidence. The only exception was a couple of years ago when I deliberately rigged up to catch a shark from a pier in North Carolina. The result was the largest fish I’ve ever caught, a 120 lb spinner shark on a rig that many would use to fish for larger fresh water catfish.

I recently paid an evening visit to the Gulf of Mexico’s longest fishing pier at Navarre, Florida. At the far end was a group of five men armed with very heavy-duty rigs consisting of 6′ graphite rods and 10-12″ geared reels spooled with 125 lb test braided line. Each line was terminated with a 15′ piece of 900 lb test mono-filament leader followed by a 6′ solid steel wire leader and a huge stainless steel “circle” hook. The large mono-filament leader is necessary to keep the braided line away from the shark’s sandpaper like skin.

When I first arrived on scene two of the men were cutting a large 4′ stingray into several chunks. I assumed they were preparing the ray to be taken home for the grill. Instead  these chunks were destined to become shark bait.

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New Yorkers

What do I know about New Yorkers? Like most Mid-Westerners, my knowledge of those in the Big Apple is based on having watched countless episodes of Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, The Sopranos, Seinfeld, and Sex in the City. I know the place is inhabited mainly by, hookers, pushers, pimps, cops on the take, wise guys, rude cab drivers, soup Nazis, a mayor that doesn’t like Big Gulps, and fat cat one percenters who work on Wall Street and live in the Upper West Side.

I know they speak with an accent that to my ear can be loud, boisterous, assertive, threatening, and at times, whinny. I know that none of them can be trusted, they’re all on the take, they are cold and uncaring, they think out of towners are rubes, and most of the women wear stiletto heels costing thousands and with which, they would gladly poke a hole in your heart.  Continue reading New Yorkers

CGS’s Guide to Conquering The Big Apple

I had not laid boots on the concrete of NYC since 1963. We had driven through on a few occasions but not stopped. So, for practical purposes our recent trip was like having never been there and we made lots of rookie mistakes. Just in case you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple, here’s some tips that may smooth your way.

I had driven in NYC more than once but got talked out of it this time. Instead we made reservations at a Holiday Inn Express in Woodbridge, NJ not far from MetroPark, a train station that offers frequent and affordable half-hour trips into New York’s Penn Station. Penn Station is in the mid-town area so you’re central to where most of the action takes place.

Inbound train from NYC’s Penn Station arriving at New Jersey Transit’s Metro Park Station at Woodbridge, NJ.

Our plans included a Broadway play so we decided against trying to make it back to NJ late at night and booked a hotel just half a block off Times Square and precisely next Continue reading CGS’s Guide to Conquering The Big Apple

Run Away Train at Disney World

Some friends were recently talking about visiting King’s Island and how they now spend their time hanging around the coffee shops and watering holes while their children and grandchildren take on The Beast or Diamondback. One mentioned that his daughter, now the mother of two, has reached that age where a cup of hot chocolate is the preferred activity over tossing up lunch after exiting The Drop.

I can understand all this since I’ve never been much of a fan of even mildly extreme amusement park rides. During the street carnival days of my youth I enjoyed the bench seat on the merry-go-round and questioned slightly whether any good could come from actually climbing onto the back of one of those wooden horses.

A major milestone was gathering up enough manhood to risk life itself on a Ferris Continue reading Run Away Train at Disney World