Travel!

I am currently in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, hundreds of miles from home. We drove. No Interstates. We passed multiple scary chicken containment buildings in Minnesota with cheery signs that said “Farm Fresh Eggs!” It seemed clear that the signs should have read, “Regional Chicken Prison System for Forced Egg Production.” We saw Sitting Bull’s grave and found out his Sioux name is really Tatanka Iyotake. His grave was decorated with small treasures including rocks, feathers, and cigarettes. We passed on the deep fried shrimp burger and had hamburgers at Brenda’s Tumbleweed Café in a South Dakota town of 14 people. We used the ATM machine at the Milbank Bank and crossed the Missouri river on the Mobridge Bridge. One town proudly announced its slogan as “The place where two roads meet.” I can’t tell you about Yellowstone since it would involve me using too many vague adjectives like “stunning” and “amazing” which we all know tell the reader absolutely nothing.

So I apologize for being AWOL from the blog. Nonetheless, I am inspired to seek your travel stories, of which I imagine you all have one or two. This is the spot!

24 responses to “Travel!

  1. Did you go through Mitchell, SD? You must see the Corn Palace there. The outside of the building is decorated with a mural madeentirely of corn, along with seeds, wheat, and other grains. It changes every year.

  2. We actually went there six years ago when we headed out on a trip to the Black HIlls and the Badlands of South Dakota. While I loved the sense of the Americana folk art of the Corn Palace (and so did the birds!), there was also an excellent Mexican restaurant in Mitchell that I will never forget. Walking the streets of Mitchell and participating in the ambiance of the town created a vivid memory.

    • Bush Tucker

      “I want you all to turn your eyes to the right side of the coach,” says Lydia, the guide from Rosie’s Tours who is taking us to our hotel on Denarau Island in Fiji. “The American embassy is coming up. See? See it right there?”

      I am sitting on the far side of the coach, but have no trouble seeing the large, familiar yellow “M” arches as the bus rolls by the hamburger joint. Laughter sounds throughout the bus, but I wonder if people around the world judge our cuisine by the “hamburgers” from McDonalds. There’s a lesson there for me, I think, with respect to foods I have encountered on this trip through Australia, New Zealand, and now Fiji..

      ***

      Stuart, the man who gives a cultural presentation about Australian Aboriginals in the Outback desert near Alice Springs, reaches into a battered metal box, much like a fishing tackle box, and withdraws a whitish, segmented caterpillar-like worm. It appears to be made of rubber or soft plastic. He says it is a witchetty grub, the larvae of a moth, and was a very important source of protein for the Aboriginals.

      It seems to be slightly smaller than my little finger both in length and thickness. I’m standing behind several people and am having a hard time seeing and hearing. I move to another spot.

      So does the rubber witchetty grub. It crawls across Stuart’s palm.

      It isn’t rubber after all. It’s alive, and it is one big worm. It lives inside the roots of witchetty trees, and eats the insides of the roots. He says it tastes like almonds when eaten raw, and like scrambled eggs when roasted in hot ashes.

      “I’ll go roast it in the fire,” he says, and, mercifully, walks off out of sight to cook the grub.

      When he returns, he slices it into several pieces. Julia and Kristy immediately step forward to try it. Kathy seems to be preoccupied with something other than sampling a witchetty grub. As for myself, I decide to mind my manners and let my elders (there were a few) sample it first.

      When Kristy finishes chewing and I see her swallow, I give her the eagle eye.

      “It does taste like scrambled eggs,” she says. I watch her closely for a while, but she acts like everything’s normal. So does Julia.

      I wait around. There’s still some grub left. I decide it would be politic to let the youngsters have a taste, so I stay put. In the meantime, Stuart says he’s going to see if the kangaroo tail has finished roasting.

      When he returns, I notice the witchetty grub is all gone! Alas. I waited too long. So sad. Nevertheless, I console myself with the knowledge that my elders and the youngsters had a chance to taste witchetty grub.

      Stuart sets a roasted kangaroo tail down and peels off an outer membrane, then starts to slice the meat between the bones. I am startled to see its light color, so unlike my recollection of the kangaroo steaks that were served at Bojangles on our first night in Alice Springs.

      Now I am faced with an ethical decision. I stand back and ponder this problem while most of the others step forward to sample the ‘roo tail. I am not squeamish about sampling kangaroo meat, it’s just that I had interacted socially with kangaroos the day before. They were eating out of my hand. I petted one’s joey. How could I now turn around and devour kangaroo tail? I couldn’t. I couldn’t be that two-faced. I keep my place.

      Stuart passes around small jars containing samples of the various seeds, nuts, and corms of other bush food. Then he concludes his talk about bush tucker and invites us to visit the nearby Aboriginal women who are displaying their original art as they sit on pieces of carpet or blankets on the dusty soil of the Outback. Our group heads en masse towards the women. I lag behind and walk up to the wooden long dish that holds the now-cooled kangaroo tail. Again I am struck by how light the meat is, almost like pork, and by the fatty edge on it. The steaks I had seen before appeared to be quite lean.

      I think about the gentle animals I fed yesterday. I think about the joey, unable to get both its long hind legs into the pouch. I think about the kangaroo tracks I have seen around this site, with the two hind foot prints on either side of a long line where the tail has dragged in the dirt.

      I walk past the cooked meat.

      And then. Something inside me says, “You’ll never be here again. This is your only chance.” I lean down, take a small slice of kangaroo tail that was roasted in an open fire by an Aboriginal woman, and put it in my mouth.

      It tastes like pork, lightly seasoned with guilt.

      • not sue I could eat those thing too. loved the story wish I was there. good read

      • galelikethewind

        I feel that way after petting a cow and then eating a steak.
        .
        Short story: My 4 year old son at the Calif State Fair, seeing a graphic diagram showing the various cuts of pork posted near the live pig exhibit.
        “Doesn’t that bother the pigs?” he asked sweetly.

      • Good story, Gullie. It’s situations like that that make me move more and more toward my vegetarian diet.

    • Having been to the Badlands and Yellowstone I agree walking the streets of most of the towns leave great memories and sights in your mind. Will never forget Custer’s Battlefield. The emotions and feeling I got there were like no other I had every had. Beautiful views and everything,

  3. Highland Lighthouse~~~~ Moonrise/Sunset

    As the day was coming to an end the four of us wanted something different to do. So off to Highland Lighthouse we went. Just to walk around since it was past closing time. When we got there it was still open. Venturing in we discovered there was a night tour . Not knowing what it included, we asked . Wondering what could be done at night ,other than watch the light go around. To our surprise we found out they give tours about the time of the full moon . As our tour guide brought us up the winding staircase we kept wondering just how far we would get to go. Would we get all the way to the top? The circular metal stairs kept going till we got to a small iron landing

    Gail (our tour guide) told us about the moving of the light house. If it had not been moved the ocean would have claimed it. The process was a slow and hard move, it took 18 days to complete but it made it in good shape and was reopened. Learning about the other lighthouses that stood here and what happened to them. We were well informed on the history of the lighthouse and the ones that were on the sight before the present one was built. We were happy for the efforts of many people to save the lighthouse.

    As it got closer to dusk Gail pointed to a ladder behind us and said that is the last leg of our journey. Up we went. Right up beside the light shining around 16 miles out to sea. It was not a Fresnel Lens but did the job for today’s sailors out to sea. Once we all got ready Gail told us to look west the sun was setting. After a short while we were directed to look east and we got to see a full moon rise. The view was spectral we never expected to see so beautiful a sight. The setting of the sun and then the moon rise. Highland Light (or Cape Cod light as some call it) will always be a beautiful surprise for me. That summer sunset , moonrise will always thrill me whenever I think of it.

    I think the Highland Light sunset/moonrise adventure will always remain a thrill since we did not expect it. My friends and I remember the fun we had climbing the circular stairs inside the brick tower.

    I have gone to many of the state and federal parks but sometimes what is in our own backyard is a grand memory too. Even when we find it by accident. I feel I was meant to be. I can still see the red bricks as I walk up the stairway. and feel the warmth of the light and smell the salt air.

  4. Duesseldorf
    In 1976, I was fortunate enough to join the start up team that established United Parcel Service’s first overseas operation. A team of seven, based in Duesseldorf, Germany worked six days a week for 8 months getting the company established in what was then West Germany.
    In 2001, my wife Cindy and I traveled to Duesseldorf on our own to attend the 25th Anniversary Celebration with several German UPS managers who had been there at the start. We arrived in the city one day prior to the party so we could adjust to the nine hour time difference from our home in California.
    The main shopping street in Duesseldorf is called the Koenigsallee, or Queen’s Boulevard. It is the Champs Elysee of Germany, with dozens of very high-end world class stores. A virtual Rodeo Drive of Deutschland. On the afternoon of the day before the gathering, Cindy and I decided to re-visit one of our favorite boulevards. She to do some serious shopping, and I found a nice perch in an elite corner coffee shop to observe the passing parade. We agreed that after Cindy finished shopping, she would meet me at the shop at three p.m..
    The coffee location was called the Duesseldorfer Nachrichtung, or translated to English “The Duesseldorf Newspaper Stand” It was a place of polished dark woods, and several tables placed around the center of the cafe served to afford everyone a view of everyone else. People of Duesseldorf are quite formal compared to their Southern German cousins in Munich. High fashion for ladies and men was the code of the day.
    I purchased an issue of the International Herald Tribune, and was reading about current European affairs when a man across from me said in broken English,
    “It looks like you are having some troubles with one of your towers.” I looked up to the wide-screen TV with CNN International feed, and saw flames and smoke gushing from World Trade Center One. The entire cafe gathered at the screen.
    “Must have been a small plane.” I said, based on the size of the hole in the building. It suddenly occurred to me that I had just emailed my Merrill Lynch financial adviser this morning on a personal matter. His office was in World Financial Center One, just across the street from the WTC. Then I saw the second plane go in. The realization that this was an attack almost dropped me to my knees. I ran from the coffee shop in search of Cindy. It was a few minutes after three.
    When I spotted her coming up the wide sidewalk, I gasped and couldn’t speak.
    “What is it ?” she cried, “I have never seen your face like this. What is it?”
    “Come inside, “ I finally blurted, “you must see for yourself.”

  5. Gas Stop

    Dust flows in through the open tailgate window. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” blares from the twin speakers in the dash. Some think Hank will be a star. I know he will. He speaks my language. If I only could sing. My temperature gauge is nearly pegged as I spot the shape of a Texaco sign on the horizon. I push the shift lever up to neutral. We coast. I steer to the closest pump. Ethyl is twenty-eight cents. The thieving bastards.

    I count the change in my pocket. A handful of quarters from the slots I left 8 hours ago. I wonder how much the café wants for a beer. My back goes from soaked to dry and dusty as I fill up, the west wind blowing with a vengeance. The owner starts out the screen door. It slams against the wall and I hear him curse. I wave him off, and he doesn’t argue.

    I hold my straw Stetson to my head as the wind tugs at it. I duck my head and walk to the café. The screen door pops from my hand. The owner curses again as I pull it shut.

    “Sorry,” I offer. “Got a cold beer?”

    “Miller, Pabst, Lone Star.”

    “Whatever you put in first.”

    I hear him dig through the icy water. He fishes out a Pabst. I wish I had said Lone Star.

    He pops the cap. Foam erupts and flows like cold white lava down the longneck. I wonder how much beer gets wasted every year through carelessness. I keep my mouth shut.

    From a corner booth a female voice reaches my ears, not soft and sexy but more like the crinkling of a can in a fist. “Hey, Cowboy. Buy me a beer?” Her aged features tell me this isn’t the first time she has asked that question. Thirty going on fifty I figure.

    “Sure. Beer for the lady,” I tell the owner.

    “Lady? That’s my wife.”

    “So? Pull her a beer.”

    Owner reaches, grabs the first one, pops the cap and sets it harsh on the counter. I watch the foam cascade down and pool around the bottle. I grab the bottle and walk to the booth leaving a spotty trail. I hand it to the wife and turn back to the counter.

    “You can sit a spell if you like.” I walk behind the counter and fish out a Lone Star. I hold it up and give her a look. She nods. I grab a second beer and walk to her booth. I watch the owner. He seems not to care. I start to sit across from her, then slide in next to her. Her perfume reminds me of that Avon stuff my ex bathed in. It smells good. Cheap. My kind of woman.

    “Where you goin’?” she asks. I like that. Most women want to know where you been.

    “South,” I tell her.

    She looks out the plate glass window, shifting her head around the spidery cracks mended with electricians tape. The ends flop in the wind, the adhesive sides brown from dust.

    “Nice car,” she offers. I wonder if she’s fishing.

    “Chrysler,” I tell her.

    “Why a wagon?” she asks. Figured you for a rag-top guy.

    I grin. I question my response then say it any way. “Cozy sleeping on cool nights. Desert gets cold you know. Sometimes I like to sleep with my head out the tailgate. Watchin’ the stars. Off the ground, away from the snakes.”

    “Looks roomy back there.” She is fishing. I tilt my head to her and nibble her lips. She nibbles back, and more.

    Wife nudges my hip with hers, the sign for me to get up. I scooch out. She rubs her breasts across my arm and winks. I watch her denim cheeks sashay to the counter, to the register. She gives a button a pop and the cash drawer flies open. She picks at the bills, lifts the drawer, and pulls out a C-note.

    “Hmm. Holding out on me, Harry?” she says as if to no one in particular. She tucks the bills into her cleavage, turns to the cooler and fishes out two more longnecks.

    “I’d like to say it’s been fun, Harry. But I can’t.”

    “You’ll be back,” Harry offers. “You always come back.”

    She gives the screen door a shove. The wind cracks it against the wall, and I follow her to my car like a trained dog.

    ….
    Copyright 2013, Jeff Switt

  6. Writing stuff: JJ Jance has written 20 novels about Seattle Homicide Detective JP Beaumont. In the 21st, the one I’m currently reading, she uses what I consider a clever vehicle to involve Beaumont in a cold case. He’s in the hospital, having and recovering double knee replacement surgery. He’s hallucinating from pain meds and the hallucinations, delusions, deleriums have him “seeing” a victim from early in his career. Clever.

  7. My sister-in-law has self-published her first novel, A HOME FOR WAYWARD HUSBANDS, for a review click here:

    http://jackieweger.com/blog/a-home-for-wayward-husbands/

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