Archive for Travel

Introducing…Galloping The Globe

Holy cow, Galloping Nelly is nearly three years old. During that time I’ve gone on hiatus a few times – mostly to pursue laziness – but this time it’s with purpose!

Mr. Farmer and I have created a new blog to chronicle our trip around the world. So from now until January 20, you can read our updates at www.gallopingtheglobe.wordpress.com.

I’ve been gettin’ all wound up about the neat-o things I can write about while we’re on our voyage. Including stumping Mr. Farmer with the 8,666 trivia questions in the book in my carry on, sharing my reading list and generally reporting our observations of different countries, cultures and experiences.

While we’re away, you can also reach us via Skype. So if you have an account and would like our info, just post a comment on Galloping the Globe as such and I’ll e-mail it to you.

Other than that, fasten your recliner belts, and let’s hope the bed bugs don’t bite.

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Conquering Mt. Quandary

As if packing up my office, packing up my house, driving 750 miles to Kansas, and driving 540 miles to Breckenridge weren’t enough in the past 10 days, I decided to climb a mountain yesterday. And not just a little guy with a nice view. We climbed Mt. Quandary, elevation 14,235.

For a little background, I’m spending the weekend in a 6-bedroom house south of Breckenridge with my two Colorado cousins and their 12 other friends. They’ve been doing this annual girls’ weekend for 7 years, and this is my fourth outing with them. In the past we’ve enjoyed 1-2 hour hikes out our back door, mainly through wooded areas and not very steep. And in fact I’ve come to like hiking quite a bit through these outings.

But let’s face it. Those were sissy walks in comparison to what we did yesterday.

Fortunately Mr. Farmer and I have been accumulating gear for the 4-day Milford Track hike in New Zealand, so I was dressed appropriately for the climb. It was in the 30s when we commenced, and we knew it was going to be in the 20s and windy at the summit. So thanks to Mr. Farmer’s keen hiking experience and superb outfitting skills, I had my Keen hiking boots, wool socks, a windbreaker with a fleece zip-in liner and hood, and a backpack with a load of water. And a lot of layers under that.

Our party of four (my two cousins and a friend of theirs) arrived at the trailhead at 10:45 (less than a 10-minute drive from our abode), put ourselves together, and hit the trail at 10:55.

(I don’t have a way to post pics yet, so check out another person’s photo account of the hike in a much warmer time of year by CLICKING HERE.)

Two guys in their 30s were starting out at the same time, and upon looking at the entry into the trail going up into the trees, one said, “I thought this was supposed to be a beginner one [14’er]”. Ha! Boy was he in for a surprise, as was I. Quite honestly, my heart was racing after the first 10 minutes, and though I was aware that the ascent was probably going to take four hours, it didn’t quite register. In retrospect, that part was a piece of cake.

After about an hour and a half we were above the tree line, and the misery was just about to begin. Steep loose rock, ice, wind. I didn’t freeze to death, by any means. But at times I couldn’t feel my fingers. I had to sit down about every 100 feet.

After two and a half hours we reached a flatter ridge that led us to the final ascent. The ridge was OK. But about 100 yards up the final leg, I said aloud, “This is freaking bananas.” And I repeated that phrase every 20 feet for the next 200 yards. Then my tune changed to “I don’t have to do this. I can just sit down.”

Just as I opened my mouth to say, “Uncle!” I heard voices from above yell, “COUSIN!” and I got off my bum and started up again. I somehow convinced myself that it would be a shame to come this far and not see the summit. (Meanwhile my cousins — aka mountain goats — seemed to be taking the whole thing in stride.)

At 3:15 we got to the icy, windy, tippy top of Mt. Quandary. The two guys we saw at the trailhead had passed us (but not by much), and they were up there to take pictures of us as we looked around at the AMAZING view. Truly stunning. Completely unobstructed views for 50-100 miles at the mountains all around, even out to the plains. We were on top of the world.

We only stayed about 5 minutes; the wind was brutal. I was the first to head out, and for me, the most enjoyable part of the hike was the first 30 minutes down. Finally I wasn’t panting, and though it was pretty treacherous negotiating the rocks and ice, it wasn’t the nightmare of the previous hour and a half.

I only had to stop a few times on the way down. We sat down for about 10 minutes for a snack, then I paused a few times to recover a little. What a relief to finally hit the tree line!

We arrived at the trailhead at 6:00 on the nose. 7 hours, 5 minutes after we set out. The sun was starting to slip behind the mountains, so we were glad we it didn’t take us longer. Our two vehicles were the last ones left in the lot.

When we arrived back at the house, the group was merrily cooking dinner and having cocktails. I said hello then headed down to my cave and flopped on the bed, unable to move. That hike kicked my butt. Finally around 8:30 I started to feel better.

Today I feel great! I’m sure the soreness will hit me in full force tomorrow, but for now I’m sitting in my cushy swivel rocker, drinking a cup of coffee and staring out the window at the peak I conquered yesterday. It’s truly a great sense of accomplishment. It’s the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever one. (And I will NEVER do it again.)

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The Travel Doc

When it became apparent that our trip would take us to places with weird tropical diseases, Mr. Farmer and I each made an appointment with a travel doctor to figure out what vaccinations and prescriptions we’d need to get. I opted to go to the travel clinic at Northwestern Memorial, since it’s close to my office, and I’d heard that they give great advice. Technically I would be seeing a travel nurse, not a doctor, but that’s neither here nor there.

My first appointment was a month ago, and they told me to eat a full breakfast before an hour before my appointment, then arrive 15 minutes early with my vaccination record and itinerary in hand. So I hopped on the early train, grabbed a bagel sandwich and decaf coffee at Dunkin Donuts in the train station, and set out for my medical adventure.

When they called my name, I was led by my middle-aged friendly (male) travel nurse into a typical exam room, atypically equipped with a desktop computer. He had my itinerary from when I made the appointment, so he already had a stack of maps showing the malaria risk in the countries we’d be visiting. We went over the route in detail, taking note of where we would be when. Interestingly some malaria drugs can’t be used in certain countries because there’s a resistance built-up. He prescribed me Malarone, which is a pill that you start taking two days before you enter the malaria zone and continue take until seven days after you leave it. And I didn’t know that malaria risk is only from dusk to dawn, unlike the risk for Dengue Fever and Japanese Encephalitis, both of which you catch through mosquito bites during the day. (There’s no vaccine for Dengue, and the one for Japanese Encephalitis apparently can have some nasty side effects, so unless there’s major risk, he didn’t recommend it.)

Next we went through my list of routine vaccinations to see if I was up to date. He wrote down that I’d need a polio booster (since I hadn’t had one since age 20 and we’ll be going to Africa, where polio still exists), a tetanus booster, and vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B (now given in the same shot). He asked if we’d be staying is hostels, and though the answer is technically no, I told him that we were planning a 4-day hike in New Zealand and would be staying in bunkhouses along the way. He thought it would be a good idea to get a meningitis shot since we’d be sleeping in the same room with people we don’t know.

Then we talked about Tanzania, which has both the risk for yellow fever and typhoid. With yellow fever, it’s not an issue of having the vaccine before getting into a country with a yellow fever risk, but rather an issue of getting into other countries after being in an at-risk country. For typhoid, he had two options for me – one was a shot that would last two years, and the other was a series of four live vaccine pills taken every other day, which would last five years. I opted for the second, just in case we decide to go nuts and move to Nairobi or something.

He also prescribed an antibiotic for diarrhea (which he assured me that I would no doubt get – it’s just a matter of time).
Finally, we talked about shots for both the flu and swine flu. He suggested shots for both, though we’ll have to find the H1N1 shot when we’re already travelling because it won’t be out before we depart.

All in all, I would need 7 shots. We opted to split it up, so that unlike Mr. Farmer who got 6 in one fell swoop, I’d get 3 that visit and 4 the next.

Shots aren’t my favorite thing, but in truth it wasn’t that bad. And the only side effect was exhaustion by 8:00 p.m.

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The Big Trip

I’ll blame all my laziness on Facebook; it’s so much easier to post with my thumbs on the Crackberry while slouched on the train bored out of my mind.

But I have too much to talk about to limit it to so few characters!

So. Depending on your worldview, Mr. Farmer and I…
(A) are going on a crazy freakin’ trip around the world
(B) are leaving the city behind because green acres is the place to be
(C) are completely nuts
(D) all of the above

M.F.’s last day of work is tomorrow (assuming he can clean out his Inbox, which currently has 6,000 e-mails, by the end of the day). My last day is September 25. At which point we’re hiring big-shouldered dudes to pack up a U-Haul, which we will drive to Kansas in the last few days of September. (Heather and I were just reminiscing tonight about the reverse trip we made in 2003.)

We’ve gotten quite a few questions since we broke the news. Here are the ones most frequently asked:

1. Where are you going on your trip?

What started as a one-month trip to New Zealand and Australia has turned into a 3-month gallop around the world, literally. We’re flying out of Wichita on October 14, and staying in each of these places (number of days in parens):
Hong Kong (3)
Vietnam (10)
Bali (6)
New Zealand (14)
Australia (15)
South Africa (5)
Tanzania (13)
Cairo (3) — ironically we’ll be here for Christmas
Athens (4)
Italy (9)
Austria/Germany (7)

2. How do you pack for a trip like that?

Very lightly. We’re each taking a decent-sized backpack weighing 25-30 pounds. We’re not afraid to smell bad.

(As an aside, Mr. Farmer is in charge of fashion for the trip, which explains why I now own two pairs of hiking pants, an L.L. Bean raincoat, and some hiking boots. The other day I actually got an e-mail from Saks saying plaid flannel is the hot thing for the fall, and I told him I would be sporting with bug-eye sunglasses with some of his plaid shirts. Here was his reply: “Even Foofenstein is following my lead. It took a lot of ridicule to bring plaid back but the perserverence paid off. Now, as an industry leader, I recommend giving the bug-eyes a second look – I think they’re out like yesterdays pointed collars! What’s next – Mizrahi in work boots?”)

3. Do you have jobs in Kansas for when you get back?

Nope. We’re going to figure it out when we return. Or maybe we’ll figure it out en route.

4. Are you using a travel agent?

We used Airtreks.com to book our tickets — they specialize in around-the-world trips. We have 28 different flight segments, and it took us over 2 hours on the phone to work them all out. We’re using Access 2 Tanzania for our safari. We’re booking the rest of it on our own.

5. Does Mr. Farmer know what he’s getting in to?

Hard to say. He’s been doing a lot of monotone chanting lately.

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An interesting week

My frequent flier account overfloweth this week.

I had meetings near Toronto on Wednesday, near Baltimore on Thursday and near Des Moines on Friday. So I took the opportunity to visit Curly Girl, who’s been living in Toronto with her family since early this summer.

Toronto is a really nice city. It’s funny though how you would assume that Canada is pretty similar to the U.S.  But occassionally you get a cue that makes you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore. First, the kilometer thing. I found myself constantly converting my speed and the distance on the road signs to miles so I could figure out how far I had left to go. Then the money. It reminds me of Monopoly.

Because my time there was so short, I didn’t have much chance to see the city. At least I had a car, so I got to see the main parts of downtown as I was going to and from her apartment.

Besides our lovely visit, I had a lot of opportunity to read this week. I picked up two books in the airport on my first leg of the trip: The Tales of Beetle the Bard, and The Bible. (No, not the Bible itself — a biography of it.)

The first one is a spin-off of the Harry Potter series — mentioned in the books as one of the texts that the characters study at Hogwarts Academy. Of course it was translated by Hermoine (the overachiever girl in the book), with commentary by Dumbledore (the headmaster). J. K. Rowling gave the book to a charity, who sold it to Scholastic. It’s a shortie — just four fables. It was mildly interesting and gave a bit of insight on some of the happenings in the series. I’d recommend waiting for it in paperback.

The other book  — “The Bible” — is in the “books that changed the world” series, written by Karen Armstrong. She wrote a book called “A History of God”, which I read a couple years ago. Fascinating. She’s a nun-turned-historian who seems to be most interested in the historical aspects of Christianity, Islam and Judiasm — especially how they have influenced each other. These two books will definitely influence your thinking.

Take a read over the holidays and then e-mail me your thoughts.

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Adventures at the Cabin

Ah, Memorial Day seems so long ago — back in the days when I could actually dry my hair without sweating it wet again.

Mr. Farmer had been itching to introduce me to his “escape in the woods” in the U.P. (that’s Michigan, for y’all not from around these parts). So we headed out on Friday afternoon for 7 hours on our butts in his truck, trying not to irritate the persistent kink in my neck.

We hit the Port of Green Bay bridge at sunset. With another three and a half hours to go, we debated stopping in Iron Mountain for the night, but ultimately we were awake enough to take on the final leg, arriving around 11:30.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We only had lanterns for light that first night, but they put off enough light to reveal thosands of dead flies. Everywhere. I assumed broom duty. We ate them for a midnight snack.

 

 

 

 

 

By morning we were used to the flies, and most had been lovingly dumped out the door.

Lest you think I have become soft in my age of city life, I want to point out that we only had running water for a couple hours a day. There was some sort of issue with air in the line, so it kept losing its prime. Of course I knew nothing about what the men-folk were doing about this in the back shed — Barbara Walters was MUCH more interesting.

 

The first afternoon we headed over to a nearby lake with the kayaks, where Mr. Farmer tricked me into fishing — and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The best I could reel in was Mr. Farmer, himself.

Here’s my favorite photo:

This one is a close second:

The next day we took a cruise around the property…

…in search of the tree stand near the creek. (And bear poop.)

 

As we headed back to the cabin, we ran into Butch, the friendly neighbor. He’d left us an empty Old Style can on the porch to let us know he’d been there. He calls his place “Butch’s Coffee Shop” — in other words, all the old men meet at his house every morning. Then they return for “cocktails” that night.

Here’s one of the two tree stands on the property, which is where we perched ourselves in the late afternoon to try to spot a bear.

And spotted one we did! He lingered for about 45 minutes, grazing in the clearing.

We had a pu pu platter for dinner.

One of the other guys was going to take a cute little picture of us in front of the cabin. Unfortunately my attempt to jump on Mr. Farmer and attach myself like a koala bear resulted in me landing on my ass.

 

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Bouncing Nelly

Since Thursday I’ve been out with the documentary crew again, visiting two of our featured characters. I started near Cincinnati, and now I’m near Elkhart, Indiana — in the middle of Amish country (familiar territory).

Last night one of the truckers had a BBQ, and he also had a trampoline. After probably 10 years of not doing flips, I got up the nerve to try some. (And I was dared by a 7-year-old, so obviously I had to do it.)  

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