Author Archives: roadsrus

About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey.

Soon On The Road

Ruth and I are among the lucky ones who have gotten both COVID-19 shots, so we are planning our 1st celebratory trip in over a year. We have not seen my brother Jim, who now lives in Oakland, CA for more than a year; so the Bay Area will be our 1st major stop. Jim is also a writer whom we have collaborated with in the past, so we are looking forward to catching up about his latest projects. He also is an avid traveler so we have shared many roadworthy experiences with him. We have a lot to talk about!

Because foreign destinations are still not available and being realistic, Ruth & I do not expect to be out of this country in 2021. If that situation changes, we’ll see what we can do. Going to Australia is a mighty tempting possibility. In the meantime we are only considering unvisited domestic destinations, including the 5 following people magnets that we have learned about recently but have not yet experienced.

This 1st post-pandemic excursion is developing into a road trip so far. It will include a drive down Highway One on the fantastic California Coast after some time spent in the Oakland area. We have not done this super scenic road is several years. Ruth and I are both wondering how the past several months of restriction have affected travel. We will be finding out and reporting on this.

We have never been to Mount Diablo State Park east of Oakland. Seeing it is now a definite possibility. Several sources have told me that it is often visible in the Bay Area, but I have not noted it in the past. This California State Park centers on a geologic anomaly that sounds interesting. Although 30 miles from San Francisco, Mount Diablo is said to be isolated. It’s an upthrust peak of 3,849 feet that is not a volcano but is between 2 earthquake faults and is reportedly a double pyramid, whatever that means. There is a road all the way to its summit that is very popular with cyclists. At lower altitudes, this road is said to be a mix of oak tree woodland and grassland. The upper regions have some pine trees. Mount Diablo is an interesting name that I am looking forward to researching since diablo means devil in Spanish. I am aware of 2 movements in the early 21st Century to rename it Mount Reagan for the former governor of this state who became a 2-term national President, but apparently this has not been such a popular idea.

The other road I am looking forward to learning about is called Moki Dugway. This very beautiful mountain area is in southeast Utah. Moki Dugway is a mountain pass. The road to it ends at scenic route 95 and Bear’s Ears National Monument that we have not seen, but I recall that President Obama got into some trouble for bringing it to peoples’ attention during his Presidency. This historical footnote will be examined. Farther up 95 is another National Monument called Natural Bridge that sounds a lot like Arches National Park, which is further north around Moab.

The other 2 scenic drives that we are considering are Highway 46 in California, which begins at the coast but ends in the town of Paso Robles that we visited the last time we were in this area and really liked. We have also been told that Gates Pass Road west of Tucson is quite scenic but seldom seen by travelers. Both are definitely on our list of sights to see.

Hank


Five More Travel Highlights

We were in a restaurant in Punta Arenas, Chile, and I ordered a steak. Beef was still a big thing to order in this part of the world back then. It probably still is. The steak came and I thought, “I can eat this” because it seemed tiny atop the plate. I poked it with a fork. It didn’t move. I poked it again and it began to literally unfold. When it stopped cascading, this once tiny steak filled my plate. It had been folded over to appear smaller. I, of course, could not finish it.

Ruth & I both loved the walled city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. The wall had become a total tourist attraction that circled the city, and you could entirely walk around this city’s center. The sights from this high wall were of a very old neighborhood, harbor, sea, distant islands, and red rooftops by the score. We took our time to thoroughly explore it on a beautiful spring day right before Easter. It was an extremely memorable experience that we are unlikely to repeat.

I took Ruth to Athens for her December birthday. Luckily, I found an opened restaurant serving great Greek food across the street from The Acropolis to celebrate. Because the restaurant was on the top floor of a tall building, the floodlit hill with the Acropolis on its summit could be seen from the restaurant’s large window that we were seated near. It was a truly magical night. The next day we explored The Acropolis thoroughly and were surprised by the number of stray dogs lying about, but we were even more amazed by the attention they were being given by the many tourists. The urge to pet them was far more important than the venue for many of the locals, but I was there to learn about Greek culture, not stray dogs. The architect Phidias worked for 15 years to build the structures he designed on top of this urban mountain. His supervisor Pericles was involved in this project for 50 years. After 267 AD, Barbarian invaders rocked Athens, and the only monuments to survive were those on The Acropolis. I was especially impressed with the largely intact Temple of Athena, but the view of all of this was made far more memorable because of the experience in that restaurant the previous night.

My 2nd solo trip after I started travel writing was to Budapest, Hungary. I fell in love with this city immediately and spent a lot of time in Buda on the hill containing The Fisherman’s Bastion and many other historic sights. I was awed by the views of the Danube River and the Hungarian Parliament, the largest in the world, over in Pest. I was so impressed that as soon as I got home Ruth and I began planning another trip to this city so I could show her what I so loved. It was on this 2nd trip that I learned about the Hungarians’ love for lard, which was in most dishes from salad to dessert.

When we were in Buenos Aires, our daughter-in-law Jennifer, who was living there at the time, treated us to a late night tango show. It took some time to get used to the smoky atmosphere in the tango theater, but the show was fairly short. The dancing was a revelation that the participants took very seriously. Their gravity added to the fun of seeing them perform this ritual dance in a city that loves to tango. We went to the San Telmo neighborhood for this show and returned to the area later to learn more about tango. Buenos Aires loves its nightlife. There are about 300 theaters there and many fine restaurants.

Hank


Five ‘Best Sight’ Trips

One of the definite advantages to both Ruth & me from travel is unforgettable experiences that we wish to repeat but probably won’t. Of the 5 following memories, we have only been able to repeat the first 2, but they all yielded some of the best sights we have ever seen. They are among our best evers.

Circular Quay is Sydney’s tourism magnet. From it you can see the harbor, perhaps the best one in the world, Luna Park, an Amusement Park across the harbor in Lavender Bay on the other side of the Sydney Bridge lovingly called The Old Coat Hanger, the familiar opera house, and all the boats that scamper about and connect Sydneysiders to their harbor. The best view of all of this is from a restaurant on the top floor of Sydney’s old Customs House. Because this has always been its main harbor, the historic buildings around it have been often updated and now contain tourist favorites. Cafe Sydney on the top level of the Customs House, which is floor #5, is our favorite place to dine in this city mainly because of the view. Tripadvisor gives it 4.5 out of 5. I’d give it at least 5 out of 5. It’s expensive and a tough reservation but well worth it. Ask for a harbor view table outside and you won’t be disappointed. The food is superb too. It has somehow survived total closure during the pandemic. Pause on the 1st floor on your way up to Cafe Sydney via the elevator to see its in-floor diorama of Sydney and the well used library on both sides if it.

Ruth & I love Las Vegas’ art deco entertainment complex called The Smith Center. It offers great outside views of downtown Vegas, and is beginning to reopen after a long closure. How the pandemic and theater seating will be affected by available but scarce vaccines is yet to be known, but we both hope to experience The Smith Center again soon. Everything in it is in the art deco style of long ago and beautifully realized for 21st century tastes. Just seeing the lobby is a considerable thrill.

Kauai is our favorite Hawaiian island to repeat when easy travel becomes possible again. Most of this island’s tourist action is in its northeast quadrant. It’s west coast, the fantastic Na Pali, has no roads. The only way to see its cliffs and grandeur is by boat or plane. The best thing you can do is to drive up to the Waimea Canyon State Park, but its views of this coast are quite limited. One time we popped for a helicopter look and were not disappointed. It remains one of my must memorable trip experiences and one that we surely won’t do a 2nd time. The pilot took us up and over the canyon for spectacular views of it.

One time Ruth & I took a bus from Helsinki to Savonlina, Finland, and we went to see an opera or 2 in a dilapidated ruin of a castle. This is now an irreplaceable memory. This area’s lakes and attractions, its natural pleasures in summer, its proximity to Russia, and its overall uniqueness made it worth doing. #5 of our best travel experiences has to be the snow clad and totally majestic mountains in British Columbia’s Okanagan region and the area to the east of it. I long to return to Mount Revelstoke, the towns of Nelson and Fernie, and the city of Kelona.

Hank


Several Strange Words

On February 10, 2021, I wrote about weird English language words in “Strange Words Indeed” because words have always fascinated me.

For example, some words in English have negative meanings but sound like something beautiful. I nominate bramble for this category. No one wants to walk through a bramble patch, but the word itself sounds like something rather nice. Some words have positive meanings but sound negative. Is it good or bad to be puissant? It’s desirable to be puissant, having great power or influence, but when spoken the word can sound like something no one would desire to be.

Because of their very sound, some words sound positive and are. Sometimes nominated for the most beautiful word in the English language are dulcet, gossamer, euphoria, lithe, diaphanous, silhouette, panacea, and lullaby. Again some words sound positive but can be negative. Is to be sibilant a good thing are a bad thing? Most people would say that to make a hissing sound is negative.

I wrote about the most beautiful phrase in English in “Strange Words Indeed”. Some say that “cellar door” wins. Others favor “summer afternoon”, which sounds nice and can be rather pleasant.

When asked the most difficult word to pronounce, some say Worcestershire wins. This is hard to argue with.

An odd category is “least used words”. Usually words seldom used become obsolete and die of natural causes. Some say that genipap is the least used word. What’s a genipap anyway? It’s an evergreen Caribbean tree with orange-like fruit, and it’s hard to argue with this designation. But what does it mean to bumfuzzle? Isn’t that word as little used as genipap?

Spelling is a more useful category. It’s definitely hard to spell some words. Often for me these are often used words that cause a mental block when I try to use them. The Reader’s Digest in 2020 nominated the following words as among the 20 hardest words to spell. They should know. They include nauseous, indict, Wednesday, fuchsia, mischievous, and onomatopoeia. I have found that an abundance of close together vowels in a word can lead to spelling confusion. Look at how may vowels are in onomatopoeia, for example. However, I can usually spell onomatopoeia with little difficulty. By the way, a word is onomatopoeic when it imitates the sound of its meaning like tinkle, fizzle, and buzz.

Hank

PS It’s hard to match this subject with appropriate photos. That’s why I used plants for “Strange Words Indeed” and why I chose art glass for “Several Strange Words”. In my opinion, Neon Art fits this category. The top 3 are by glass art expert Dale Chihuly of Seattle.


Mountain Man John Fremont

I mentioned in “The Gasconade and the Cuivre” that a river called the Rio Buenaventura appeared on early 19th century maps as an actual river flowing from the Great Salt Lake to the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco Bay. The trouble is that it never existed in an era when explorers were determined to find a navigable river flowing from the central United States to the Pacific Ocean.

John Charles Fremont led expeditions in the area where the Rio Buenaventura would be if it existed between 1842 and 1845. Fremont was a military man, explorer, and politician. A Senator from California, he became the 1st Republican nominee for President. The Civil War began 4 years later, and Abraham Lincoln became the 1st Republican President. Fremont and Kit Carson followed the Oregon Trail together in 1842 and became friends. Fremont made it all the way to the Columbia River in what is now Oregon. Both men contributed much to our knowledge of the West. Fremont also befriended many rough mountain men and sought adventures like the expeditions that he led. One of Fremont’s goals became to find the best way for settlers heading west to follow to reach the coast. This goal was a reason for his expeditions as was a desire to see the Rio Buenaventura and report where it flows.

Fremont headed for California and discovered that the Rio Buenaventura does not exist. It was a hoped for myth. He recognized the fact that the Columbia is the only major river that flows west to the Pacific Ocean and participated in creating a map in 1845 that proved to be a genuine guide for Oregon Trail followers and other wester travelers. He crossed the Mojave Desert, a major feat of endurance.

Fremont was truly one of the major explorers of the American West. He traveled through a lot of land that mountain men never saw. In some ways he was as important as Lewis and Clark, and he approached exploring as they had. He studied plants and added to geologic knowledge. He wanted to see the land for himself and did. Fremont was an unheralded man of vision who earned and deserves a higher place in American history.

Hank