Thursday, February 28, 2008

I ain’t going out like no punk bitch

I’m heading out tomorrow afternoon for a weekend getaway. I will be hitting the road to beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. I always try to make sure I have the proper accessories when I travel - shoes, jewelry, belts and purses. But even if I forget some of those, there is one accessory that I always pack (pardon the pun) when I hit the road alone - my Smith & Wesson .38 special revolver. Nothing makes me feel more secure than having my gun in the car.

Before you get all up in arms (again, pardon the pun), let me assure you that I have the proper handgun carry permit which allows me to legally carry a loaded gun in my car. And believe me, I earned that permit. I spent an entire weekend, and a considerable amount of money, several years ago taking the proper class to obtain my permit. The instructor was a chauvinist redneck named Cletus. On Saturday, I had to endure an entire day of class which consisted of Cletus “lecturing” about pretty much every subject that was pissing him off on that particular day. He had a captive audience and wasn’t about to waste the opportunity to run his mouth. Cletus was quite the drama queen and liked to make ridiculous statements that made me want to laugh out loud several times. I’ve referenced my favorite Cletus-ism before.

On Sunday, our class went to the firing range. We had to present and register our guns at the beginning of the day. Cletus took one look at my gun and said, “This gun is way too big for your hands, little lady.” I had to restrain myself from telling him it wasn’t too big to shove up his fat chauvinist butt since he could have failed me which would have meant no permit. So I bit my tongue and soldiered on and passed the class. After paying even more money (and an ugly fingerprinting incident at my local DMV we’ll discuss at another time) I was the proud owner of my handgun carry permit. So if, heaven forbid, the shit hits the street this weekend on my road trip, I’ll be prepared!!

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We Don’t Usually Need to Treat Diabetes With Oxygen

Last Friday, a woman died of complications from diabetes and heart disease aboard an American Airlines flight from Port Au Prince, Haiti, to JFK in New York. She began feeling ill and very thirsty immediately after eating the in-flight meal. She rapidly deteriorated to the point of needing oxygen, which one might think would have clued the flight attendants in to the fact that it was more serious than most passengers’ reactions to the cardboard airline food.

When the passenger, who was actually a nurse herself, requested oxygen from a flight attendant, she responded (in her medical opinion?!) "OK, but we usually don't need to treat diabetes with oxygen, but let me check anyway and get back to you." A spokeswoman for the union representing American's attendants on the flight also noted that "Flight attendants are trained not to automatically give oxygen to every passenger who requests it but instead use airline criteria to judge when it's needed." Airline criteria?! Meaning the same flight attendants who can't manage to bring you a second beer with dinner are the ones who are going to decide whether you get oxygen, most likely based on the same policy, i.e.: Do I really want to get her that beer, or would I rather flirt with the guy in first class? Do I really want to get him that oxygen, or would I rather finish my Sudoku puzzle?

Serious questions are now being asked about whether the flight's medical equipment was working. A pediatrician on board the plane who stepped in to assist noted that the automatic electronic defibrillator, which planes are mandated to carry, was working, but the woman's heartbeat was too weak to respond. He could not confirm or deny whether the oxygen canisters were working properly, which the woman's family denies. Interestingly, however, the oxygen on a plane is there for use in case of decompression. It can also be used for other emergencies, but presumably under the same "airline criteria" we discussed earlier.

MedAire, Inc. is a company that serves as a resource for flight attendants regarding in-flight medical events. Flight attendants with sick passengers call Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, a level-one trauma center where emergency room physicians and a service able to translate 140 languages are on call to answer questions from any of 2 million airline passengers flying at any given time. Very rarely, however, does the call result in a diversion, which is a decision made not by the doctor but by the pilot, who must consider a number of variables beyond the passenger's health, including weather conditions, remaining fuel and proximity to an airport. High Flying Bird wonders if they also consider their on-time arrival average. . . In the case of the JFK-bound flight, the pilot agreed to divert to Miami, but then continued on without stopping after the woman was pronounced dead.

High Flying Bird’s advice? Don’t fly if you’re not feeling well!

-- The Commish

Monday, February 25, 2008

From Oscars to Fresno - Highs & Lows At the End of February

The Oscars were a blast...though they are a lot more regimented than I thought. The nominated stars actually have scheduled times to appear on the red carpet so that they can have the limelight to themselves. You see a hell of a lot more on TV than you do being there. Stars go to the left. Everybody else goes to the right. We did get to meet Javier Bardem...but just got a handshake.

We were on the second level, which was better than I expect. But, as opposed to TV, you can only see the backs of their heads so you don't know who is a star and who isn't. While there are hundreds of stars, half of them you have no idea who they are. And there are thousands of non-stars. When you come in on the red carpet, they don't rush you...but, they do make you keep moving. We actually saw more red carpet action inside on the monitors than we did outside.

After the Oscars are over, they really try to hold the nobodies back. And, the stars head to the after-parties. We did get close enough to Elton John's party that you could hear him singing. Prince was supposed to be coming to Elton's party. We waited around, but I had to drive back to Fresno. He hadn't gotten there when we left.

The most fun at the Oscars is the excitement and electricity. Jon Stewart was talking with stars during the commercials. Commercial time is when you feel like you really got something by being there that people don't get watching TV.

Same Old Same Old Santa Monica Blvd.

Well LA hasn't changed. Couple of new places. Other than that its the same place. The drinks are more expensive. Same crowds same clothes same people. They've redone the Abbey. It actually looks like an abbey now. It's very nice. It's a hot spot restaurant during the day now. The food is incredible. The bartender is a "bastard in a basket," as he calls himself. Attached is his pic. He's a hoot.

Passport Expiration Dates: Don't Let The Trip Get Spoiled

My passport says it expires March 21, 2015. To me that means as long as I return to the United States of America from my fabulous destination by 11:59 p.m. (local time) on March 21, 2015, it’s all good.

As it turns out, like a big swig of chunky, spoiled milk, it could be very bad.

Some countries require that your passport be valid for up to three or six months after your scheduled departure from their country. For example, if you are headed to Israel on September 1, 2008, be sure your passport is valid until at least March 1, 2009 (if I counted correctly on my fingers). Israel is just one of the countries that require a passport be valid for six months after your scheduled return.

Before you book your next trip to a foreign destination (and I don’t mean Louisiana), check your passport expiration date, then check the specific entry and exit requirements of that country on the U.S. Department of State’s website.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Friday, February 22, 2008

The "Sit Down, Can't Cry, Oh Lord I'm Gonna Die" Blues

We at HFB are frequently asked - why High Flying Bird?

So in a move that is hopefully fair use, we'll give you a taste of the lyrics that inspired the site name:

There's a high flyin' bird, flying way up in the sky,
And I wonder if she looks down, as she goes on by?
Well, she's flying so freely in the sky.

Lord, look at me here,
I'm rooted like a tree here,
Got those sit-down,
can't cry Oh Lord, gonna die blues

That's how we feel in our cubicles when we have no trip planned. And, before you ask, our favorite version is the one by Ritchie Havens, though Judy Henske's is a pretty close second.

High Flying Bird Endorses Hillary Clinton For President

Okay, we never saw it coming. We couldn't imagine a field where our interests were in line with Hillary Clinton's platform. We thought we were Republicans, for pete's sake. Well, not anymore.

You've read it all, you've seen it all, you don't want to have it all regurgitated for you here, so we'll just mention a few pertinent points.

- Each of these candidates and Congress would spend a whole lot (too too much) of our money. But universal health care, or some such thing, seems a better and cheaper project than continuation of the Iraq war, starting additional wars to feed the defense and oil conglomerates, and/or running around the globe trying to shove democracy down the throats of other countries, Senator McCain, friend.

- We're not wild about the complete revamping of our system espoused by Senator Obama and aren't too anxious to see it undertaken by someone with little-to-no experience. We'd love to be more specific about our Obama concerns, but until Senator Obama actually says something, we're stumped.

- And, no one wants to say it, but we will. We think Obama is a Muslim, and while we hope there is a time very soon when it is appropriate to have a Muslim president of the U.S., that time is not now.

- And everyone is saying it, and we will too. Senator McCain's is in bed, at least figuratively, with lobbyists which represent a stunning array of powerful special interests. Methinks thou doth . . .

- Senator Clinton is adamant about getting the U.S. off its addiction to oil and creating alternative methods for transporting us about our country and the globe. Senator Clinton is a consistent supporter of federal aid to Amtrack. All of that sounds like very good news for a High Flying Bird.

- We believe Senator McCain is so yesterday, so out-of-it, so contemptuous of people of faith, so in-bed with the cronies, that if he is the face of the Republican party, we want no part of it.

- Any way we slice it, Senator Clinton comes up the most moderate, least insane, and best prepared. Go Hillary.

So we voted early today, for Senator Clinton. We hope you'll take another look. It isn't over yet, and heaven help us if the day comes that she is out of this race.

This is Why People Around the Globe Hate Us, But, What Can You Do?

The United States Olympic Committee plans to bring its own food to the Olympic Games in Beijing due to fears about public health and food standards in China.

“I feel it's a pity that they decided to take their own food,” said Kang Yi, the head of the Beijing Olympic Organzing Committee food division.

What's a War Without Some Turks?

One of High Flying Bird's favorite hip and funky countries has just gotten a wee bit less safe for the backpackers and others who head there for great food, fantastic ambiance and a true welcome to all visitors save the Greeks. Unfortunately, Turkish troops have launched a ground incursion into Iraq in pursuit of separatist Kurdish rebels. Hookah smokers in Istanbul should still be fine.

In Case You're Considering a Lebanese Adventure Tour with Hizbullah

Per the Drudge Report: Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah on Israel: "The disappearance of Israel is an inevitable fact. It is an historical process in the region which will come to an end in several years."

Terror Threat in Delhi

An anonymous e-mail in Hindi threatened a series of terrorist attacks next week in New Delhi/NOIDA.

Stay away from places where people gather - market places, train stations, etc.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Serbs out of control (again)?

The New York Times is reporting that 100 demonstrators have set fire to the U.S. Embassy as thousands more Serbs protest the independence of Kosovo. Be careful out there if you're on the road . . .

You know it's not too late cause you'll always have a place to go when whoever's in New England's through with you

If you are ever in southern Nicaragua in the city of Diriamba and run into some children wearing caps or t-shirts proclaiming the New England Patriots the 2008 Super Bowl champions, there is a good reason why. Reuters is reporting that the NFL has partnered with World Vision, a humanitarian organization, to distribute the merchandise of the losing team (which is manufactured in advance of the big game) to needy children around the world. I for one think this is an excellent idea and a great use of the merchandise. So if you encounter those children on your trip to Diriamba don't feel the need to point out their shirts and caps have incorrect information on them. Instead, use the opportunity to pause and reflect on the beautiful perfection that was this year's Super Bowl. The underrated, upstart New York Giants charging their way to victory over the undefeated, cheating Patriots was one for the ages. It will be an unexpected bonus to your trip to Nicaragua.

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bye-Bye Castro, Hello Cuba!

The top story in the news today is Fidel Castro’s resignation as President of Cuba and commander-in-chief of its armed forces, ending “nearly a half-century of iron-fisted rule that inspired revolutionaries but frustrated 10 U.S. presidents,” according to CNN. In addition to the obvious political impact, Castro’s resignation may also open up a whole new world for travel. The island lies just off the southern tip of Florida, so it will be a short hop from Miami to Havana, where High Flying Birds can immerse themselves in the culture and history of a country that has been forbidden and mysterious for over 40 years. But where to go and what to do, other than the Bay of Pigs and Guantanamo?

San Cristobal de la Habana Villa, the Old City of Havana, definitely looks like it’s not to be missed. The city was founded in 1519 and still retains many of its old Spanish vestiges, such as the port, the Plaza de Armas and Cathedral Square. This High Flying Bird is looking forward to the Isla de la Juventud, as well, which was discovered by Columbus in 1492. Characterized by luxuriant vegetation and hills, it is the land of ceramics and citrus fruits. It is also the site of the Presidio Modelo, where Fidel and his pals were once held captive. The beaches of the island are supposed to be as impressive as the jungles, so there should be lots of opportunity for adventure.

Even non-smokers might be interested in the cigar tours of the famous Habano region, which takes visitors to the native tobacco region, where the residents themselves impart the history and culture of the area, as well as demonstrate the rituals of smoking the finest cigars in Cuba.

Being an island, of course, Cuba is surrounded by 200 natural bays and 600 beaches. Most are protected by coral reefs, with the water temperature hovering between 73 and 86 degrees. As one might expect, it is a diver’s paradise. There are more than 500 varieties of fish, crustaceans, sponges, mollusks and coral species in the 15 government-protected diving zones in the country. Fishing is also available year ‘round in the lakes, rivers and reservoirs of Cuba, where bass are plentiful. And for all those who remember Santiago in Ernest Hemingway’s classic, The Old Man and the Sea, never fear, Cuba’s salt-water fishing remains top-notch.

The U.S. embargo is still in place, but if it's ever lifted, you might want to include Cuba in your next discussion of tropical-beach vacation plans, with a dash of history.

-- The Commish

Monday, February 18, 2008

Snores on a Plane or How the Cusack Method Didn’t Work But Hopefully Bananas Will

I simply cannot sleep on planes. This is not to say I haven’t done the head-bob-back-with-snore-choke maneuver, particularly on return flights from Vegas. But on Transatlantic flights, when the lights dim and everyone snuggles beneath their germy blue blankets, I am wide awake, fretfully praying for a sleep that never comes.

Other than the occasional over-the-counter pain reliever, I try and avoid pills (keeping wine as my primary drug of choice). However, before a trip to London the first week of September 2001, I read an interview with John Cusack and, as I recall, the question of whether he sleeps on planes came up. He said, yes, and that his secret was Excedrin PM (again, this is as I recall, so if I am incorrect, John Cusack, please, by all means, call me and we’ll discuss over a romantic dinner). So, relying on all things Cusack, I dutifully took an Excedrin PM. While I did not fall asleep on the plane, I was incredibly drowsy and bleary-eyed for the business meeting I had two hours after landing, so I had that going for me.

As we all know, that next week of September 2001 forever changed all things travel. Personally, I vowed to stay awake and vigilant on all flights. If you're sleeping, my friend, you’re sleeping with the terrorists!

But that was seven years ago and I need to sleep.

The Cusack Method having failed, I researched “natural” alternatives. I know many swear by melatonin supplements but, as I discovered, there are a small percentage of us who have adverse reactions to melatonin. In my case, it produced tiny men with razor-sharp machetes slashing and hacking at the interior of my stomach. Doing additional research, I came across a wealth of fantastic ideas such as “turn off the overhead light” and “upgrade to business or first class”.

Oh, how I longed for the simplicity of a Cusack (a Cusack that worked).

But, then, I happened upon a Los Angeles Times article with a few truly interesting suggestions (looking past the revolutionary “fasten your seatbelt”). For my upcoming Transatlantic flight, I plan to follow the Times’ tips and do the following:

+ Eat bananas, which the Times articles describes as “practically a sleeping pill in a peel”.

+ Eat a handful of “snooze-inducing” almonds.

+ Eat a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread which “may be one of the best sleep inducers in the sky.”

Granted, I may be popping out of my pants by the time I reach Europe, but hopefully I’ll be asleep and won’t care. Before I doze off, I’ll make sure I’m tastefully covered by my germy blue blanket.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rocking the Sheltering Sky

The night went by slowly; yet to Port, watching the road was hypnotic rather than monotonous. If he had not been journeying into regions he did not know, he would have found it insufferable. The idea that at each successive moment he was deeper into the Sahara than he had been the moment before, that he was leaving behind all familiar things, this constant consideration kept him in a state of pleasurable agitation.

- Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Teacher don't you fill me up with your rules everybody knows that smoking ain't allowed in school

The Associated Press reports that Sheraton Hotels and Resorts are going to ban smoking in more than 300 hotels and resorts in Canada, the Caribbean and the United States.  So much for the land of the free.  What's next?  Are they going to ban drinking?  How about fattening foods?  Knives kill people.  How about we ban those from hotels?  You'll just have to pick up that steak and gnaw on it.  But WAIT!  That could lead to choking, which is also bad for your health.  So let's ban the steak too!  What about the hotel swimming pools?  People have been known to drown.  We'd better ban those as well!  You can't be too careful in a nanny state!  I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I would like to have the option to light up in my hotel room if the mood strikes me.  What say you my fellow travelers?  

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Large Row-Mate Dilemma

As I boarded the miniature regional jet for my short American flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Houston Hobby last week, I saw, with a sinking feeling, that the woman in the window seat next to my aisle seat was rather large. And as y’all know, those planes are like sardine cans, with small, cramped seats to begin with.

When I got to my tiny seat, the large woman announced that she had put her large bag under the seat in front of me, so mine would just have to go under the seat in front of her. Even though it’s just a 50 minute flight, 1 hour and 10 minutes gate to gate, and even though I may be 40, I still need my iPod, my PSP, and my Frommer’s Budget Travel and National Geographic Adventure magazines, as well as my constant bottle of water, close at hand (I’m not weird, just gifted). So I explained, very nicely and reasonably, that yes, I did mind if her enormous bag was in front of my seat, as I would need to get in and out of my bag during the flight to get my iPod, PSP, etc... After shooting me an extremely hostile look that was meant to change my mind, and after much huffing and puffing, she was able to extract her oversize bag from under that seat and maneuver it to a position somewhat between the two seats. I then realized what her initial hope had been—that I would just put my bag in the overhead compartment, as there really wasn’t room for any bag in front of her. Now, why she didn’t stow hers overhead is a mystery to me, because she never got a thing out of it. But I wasn’t asking after what transpired next.

Once the baggage issue was resolved, I was finally able to take my seat and get out of the aisle so other passengers could board. I reached for the seat belt and realized that the arm rest wasn’t down. I started to put it down, but the large woman wanted it up, I assume so that she could have half of my seat. I told her, again very nicely and reasonably, that I thought it was a safety rule that the armrests had to be down. Of course, I don’t know if that’s true, but I was trying to be diplomatic. She gave me another glare, but ultimately acquiesced.

For the remainder of the flight, she read her magazine with one arm stretched over the armrest practically in my lap and moved around constantly to show me how uncomfortable she was. I just tried to ignore the whole performance, listening to my tunes and reading about adventures that I wished I was on rather than in the situation that I was, while hanging halfway into the aisle on the other side.

So, High Flying Birds, how do you handle these situations? Should I have put my bag overhead to begin with? Left the armrest up? Made a big deal of her size and gotten the flight attendant involved? Called her names and shamed her into staying on her side? What would you have done?

-- The Commish

Monday, February 11, 2008

Movies to Set the Travel Mood

Before any big holiday trip, my destination becomes my overwhelming obsession. While I try to avoid eating foods indigenous to the region – a traveler’s version, I suppose, of no sex before marriage (why eat a beignet in Austin on Thursday when you’re in New Orleans on Friday?) – I do satisfy my voracious appetite for all things regional with movies.

Sure, the unending web searches and scouring of guidebooks are a given, but ramping up to departure I immerse myself in movies set in my destination. While some locations are obviously easier to find as movie settings than others, you truly can find movies set just about anywhere in the word. Thanks to Last Holiday with Queen Latifah, for example, I have my travel movie if I ever visit Kar Valy.

In just 10 days (but who’s counting?), I leave for Paris. Thusly, I am breaking out my repertoire of favorite movies set in Paris. Film snobs please take note, you can tell me about Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” until you are bleu in the face, but I’m not interested in the “real” side of Paris. Keep your grey and gritty. I want sparkly movies filled with art shots and pretty people sitting in cafes or strolling the Seine. Given these general parameters and, without further adieu, I give you my current top five movies to get me in the Paris mood:

Amelie. A whimsical tale of a shy waitress set in the Montmartre area of Paris, famous for its artist community – Dali, Monet, Picasso, and van Gogh all worked or lived there at some point – and, of course, for the white-domed Roman Catholic basilica, Sacre Couer which sits at the highest point in Paris. French with English subtitles.

Moulin Rouge. This is definitely a Paris of make-believe and fantasy, but I don’t care! That's how I feel about Paris and it makes me want to sing! Starring The Future Mr. Clear Plastic Bag, Ewan McGregor, and a not-yet-botoxed Nicole Kidman, this is a cherry flambé of a movie that leaves you on a sugary high.

Mon Meillur Ami (My Best Friend). To win a bet, arrogant and friendless antiques dealer Francois must produce a “best pal” in 10 days. His quest takes him through the streets of Paris with a trivia-loving taxi driver. French with English subtitles.

Before Sunset. Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy this one is a “talkie” to be sure, but all that talking is done while Ethan and Julie stroll the streets of Paris, linger in cafes, and even take a boat trip down the Seine. I never dreamed I would be recommending an Ethan Hawke movie, but that’s the power of Paris.

C'était un Rendez-Vous (It Was a Date). A short film made in 1976, it shows about an 8 minute (fast) drive through Paris at 5:30 a.m. It was shot in a single take with a camera mounted on the front bumper of a Mercedes-Benz (the director later overdubbed with a Ferrari soundtrack). Basically, it’s a race through the streets of Paris. Watch out little bread truck! You, too, pigeons! No waiting on your Netflix mail delivery for this one, watch it right now!

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Friday, February 8, 2008

Doing the B and B

For all our gal pals who long for the romantic weekend at a bed and breakfast, Chattanooga, Tennessee has an offering to satisfy most every taste. I know, I know, where in the hell is Chattanooga, Tennessee? Trust me on this one, it is worth googling to find out.

The Bluff View Inn located in the art of the Art District will delight the girly girls who can choose from a variety of rooms aptly named for local dignitaries and decorated with hardwood floors, Persian rugs, gas fireplaces, oversized jetted tubs, and the obligatory B&B focal point – really great beds. After all, it’s not called a “breakfast and bed. We stayed in the T.C. Thompson suite complete with a full kitchen, two fireplaces, oversized jetted tub, and balcony.

As always, breakfast is included in the room rate and it is worth every penny. The Back Inn Café overlooking the river is a delightfully sunny place for a leisurely breakfast that is not only delicious but presented so beautifully it warrants a moment of respect in and of itself. I can, however, also recommend breakfast in bed wth champagne and dark chocolate. What could be better than that for high flying birds?

Chatanooga’s Art District is a surprising hip and cool place. Stroll over to Rembrandt’s coffee house right next door to the Inn or hop in the car for a short drive to Caffeine. Rembrandt’s also caters to the chocoholic with homemade chocolates, pastries, and bread. High Flying Bird highly recommends taking your latte (or glass of wine) and strolling through the contemporary sculpture garden that hangs on the bluff overlooking the river.

Take your time wandering through the Art District which looks like a small Italian village until you come to the Museum of American Art which will keep you occupied for an entire afternoon. Dinner is available at either the Back Inn Café for fine dining or Tony’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant. Although the wait on a Saturday night is over an hour at Tony’s, serendipity bestows upon guests at the Inn the next available table regardless of when you arrive. We recommend the build-your-own pasta dishes. Choose from black pepper fettucine with spicy Italian sausage or the rosemary chicken ravioli with a gorgonzola cheese cream sauce. Either one with a nice Chianti in front of a roaring fire doesn’t suck, my friends as Evil John McCain might say.

Best of all, you can roll yourself back to your room which is just a few steps away.

Indique, So Chic My Sweet

If there’s one thing for sure it’s that it’s tough to get good Indian food in the middle of the country, so whenever High Flying Bird heads to one of the coasts, we land at whatever Indian we can find. In Washington D.C., that’s Indique. With a décor that takes you to the balcony of the Lake Palace Hotel floating on Lake Piccola in Udaipur, and vegetarian dishes that are so light and delightful you won’t miss the meat, the restaurant (which does have plenty of meat entrees) is directly across from the Cleveland Park Metro stop on the red line. Absolute don’t miss: the mini-dosa first plate – lighter than air lentil pancakes stuffed with spiced potatoes and other veggies, served with several delicious chutneys.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Essentially Yours

I’m traveling to Scottsdale tonight and packing for the trip reminded me of my list of essentials for any type of travel.

1. iPod – This one is so obvious, it’s almost embarrassing to include it on a essentials list. But if you are one of the five people in America who does not have one yet ---- buy one immediately. They are worth every penny. And once you buy one, you don’t even have to spend more money to fill it with something to listen to because (1) iTunes is a free download (2) you can add music to it from CDs you already own and (3) there are enough free podcasts (including High Flying Bird’s very own – available now for download on iTunes) out there to keep you entertained for hours. iPods can also be used to block out unwanted conversations with fellow travelers or screaming children.
2. hand sanitizer or wipes – Hello, my name is Hannah and I’m a germaphobe. Even if you don’t have my germ issues, you never know when you are going to eat some Cheetos or a candy bar (okay now I’m hungry) and need to clean the DEAFCON 1-strength synthetic cheese powder (mmmm, I’m definitely hungry now) or chocolate off your hands with no water available.
3. paperback book – If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to read, just leave now. Your kind isn’t welcome on High Flying Bird.
4. rain slicker – A rain jacket with a hood can be a lifesaver. It’s easier to pack than an umbrella and can be used as an extra layer of warmth in a dry but cool situation. A thin rain slicker helped me survive an unexpected drop in temperatures at a Rolling Stones stadium concert once. (My boyfriend Charlie Watts would have been devastated if I’d left early.) Another rain slicker saved my life during a trip to Jamaica one year during Christmas and New Years a/k/a “the rainy season”. If you are one of those women who thinks she is too cool to wear a hood, you don’t need to be traveling and should just stay home in a climate controlled environment.
5. snacks – I always have some snacks in my bag. Candy, granola bars, crackers, dried fruit, peanuts, etc. You never know when you are going to be traveling with people on a totally different feeding schedule than you or when you won’t have time to stop in the airport between delayed flights and pick up something to eat or when the obnoxious airline will run out of the meals available for purchase on the plane by the time they get to your seat in the back of coach (not that I’m naming names US AIR).
6. True Lemon – I like to have fresh lemon in my water and in my Diet Coke. I’ve found a good alternative when traveling is True Lemon. It is crystallized lemon that is available in individual packets ( I wasn’t as impressed with the True Lime, but you might feel differently.
7. gum – Gum is always good for general breath freshening and to help with pressure problems in your ears on flights. In the immortal words of The Geek in “Sixteen Candles”, “Fresh breath is a priority in my life.”
8. cell phone charger – Don’t ever leave your cell phone charger in your checked luggage. Always carry it on with you. You never know when you will get stuck in some airport for hours or even overnight and need to have a charged cell phone so you can call your friends and family to bemoan the fact that you are stuck in the airport.
9. pashmina-type wrap – I love these things. They are large enough to be a blanket if you are cold and small enough to act as a scarf. And they fold up into nothing and aren’t full of germs like those nasty airplane blankets (see 2. above). If you are ever in Vegas, they have a kiosk in The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace that has every color in the rainbow, and they are only $10 each. I believe they also sell fairly cheap versions in some airport gift shops.

I hope my essentials list will help you in your future travels. In the words of the offensive redneck who taught my handgun carry permit class, “When the shit hits the street, you got to be prepared!!”

-- Haiku Hannah

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tough to cope without some fine dining on your bottom of the earth trek? Kaupe you shall!

Ready for a fantastic small but elegant restaurant close to the bottom of the earth? Kaupe, located in Ushuaia Argentina, the southernmost city in the world is widely considered the best restaurant around. Don't let the locals wandering this hotspot convince you that this place ain't all that. The digs are in a small house with large picture windows overlooking the Beagle Channel; a little hard to find since it easily blends in with the surrounding houses, but well worth the hunt. Although this restaurant is expensive by Argentine standards, it is still a bargain for the traveling American looking for a fine meal.

Important payment note: Frommer’s review says the restaurant accepts MC, V, AE – not true. Almost all of Argentina is loyal to Visa. You can throw away your Master Card and feel confident leaving home without your AmEx, as long as you have a Visa. Further note: many of the credit card slips do not provide a line to add tips since tips are customarily left in cash only, so bring a little scratch even if you have a Visa.

- Travel Monkey

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

World Series of Travel

Watching the Super Bowl on TV on Sunday night from my living room couch, bereft of company and/or party food, I suddenly longed for Andy’s Club at the Ramada Inn in Jasper, Texas.

Last October, I had to travel to Jasper, in deep East Texas. Jasper is known far and wide as the Jewel of the Forest. Guidebooks reference the piney woods and beautiful lakes in the surrounding area. But my fondness for Jasper is based on my visit to that hidden gem Andy’s Club the night the Boston Red Sox won the 2007 World Series.

When I opened the door to my room, I knew, with its green indoor-outdoor carpet, thin-as-a-blanket bedspread covered with yellow cabbage roses and leaking faucet, that was no place to watch a championship game. So I donned my No. 18 Sox jersey and trooped across the parking lot to the hotel bar, Andy’s Club, where the game was on the big screen, but the sound was down due to the live performance of the three-man local cover band that played there every Sunday night. I was warmly welcomed, with the bartender immediately exhorting me to try out the free buffet (three large pizzas in Pizza Inn boxes on the pinball machine). She brought me a Bud Light and introduced me to the other two patrons. None of them were interested in the game, but the second I walked in they all became Red Sox fans, including the band.

Not to say that any of the regular Sunday night bar activity changed. Lonnie, a chemical manufacturing company rep who was in town overseeing a bug-spraying operation, came in around the 3rd inning and ordered shots of Jack Daniels with Bud chasers. He was screaming “It’s all about the music” and bought the entire bar (all six of us, including the band) drinks several times before he called it a night. And the band still played its power ballads as if the bar were full. Although at one point they played and re-played the opening bars of “Is This Love” for an eternity until the lead man was satisfied with the chord progression.

I had only planned to stay for a beer or two, but wound up still on my stool when Jonathan Pappelbon got the last out in the 9th inning. My new friends were cheering as loud as I was, even the band, which had stopped to watch the bottom of the last inning. Random experiences like that are a reminder to slow down, spend some time getting to know people, and enjoy the adventure. And High Flying Bird highly recommends Andy's Club if you ever find yourself in Jasper, Texas.

-- The Commish

Monday, February 4, 2008

Clarks Privo Opanka: The Ultimate Travel Shoe

While we agonize over maximum ensembles from minimum clothing (is this an "all brown" trip or an "all black" one?), 3 oz containers, and heavy coat vs. light coat, the most important decision we make before we get on that plane, that train, or that automobile, is which shoes we'll be wearing. It doesn't matter how thermo-correctly you've layered, if your feet are blistered and throbbing. Doesn't matter if you're stylishly black-turtleneck or stylishly brown-turtleneck for that one nice restaurant you've booked, if you're wearing white tennis shoes.

Before a trip to Barcelona in November 2006, I purchased a pair of Clarks Privo "Opanka" clogs.

And my travel life has never been the same.

I walked for miles and miles and miles in these shoes in absolute comfort. My feet are notorious for blistering and bleeding after long days of walking and exploring, as anyone who has ever shared a hotel room with me and witnessed the podi-carnage can attest, but not in these babies. It was like furry little cushiony kittens had curled and cuddled around my feet and allowed no harm to befall them. Plus, and here's the true highlight of these shoes, they have a slight heel to them so you can go right from day into evening without looking like a dorky tourist at the bar. I recommended these shoes to High Flying Bird before her trip to India and we now have another true believer.

But, now, the bad news.

These shoes were a "one-off". Clarks doesn't make them anymore. So why even tell you this? Because, it may not be too late. There are some online stores who have some left in stock. I have ordered additional pairs (they only had in brown, but take what you can get) from and I believe there is a store in New Hope, Pennsylvania that may have some but they do not have an online store, you'll need to call and order. There may be more hiding out there. Google Clarks Privo Opanka clogs. For the love of Feet, hurry!

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Saturday, February 2, 2008


You know the ones we want - the "get your motor running," the "oh-ah, i just died in your arms tonight," the "i need to know, i need to know, if you think you're gonna leave then you'd better say so," the "and the summer became the fall, i was not ready for the winter, it makes no difference at all, cause i wear boots all summer long," the "i've been every where man," the- well you get it. vote early and often by posting a comment, and we'll post the top ten for inclusion on your road tape, er, cd er, ipod.

Rebels Marching On Chad. Mr. Clooney, We're Getting Lost on What We Should Be Doing!

Thousands of rebels are marching towards the presidential palace in Chad. Under a 30-year-old agreement, the French military gives logistical and intelligence support to Chad's government, and France claims the rebel attack is an attempt by "armed forces from the outside" to seize power. Specifically, Chad's Foreign Minister has accused Sudan of instigating the attack to stop the deployment of a EU force which Sudan does not want in Chad because "it would shine a light on all the genocide that is taking place in Darfur orchestrated from Chadian territory." Apparently, both the Chadian and Sudanese governments support rebels in each others' territory.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Podcast Episode 2: Amtrak Cross Country with Katsy

Katsy joins High Flying Bird to give us the low-down on the cross country train trip. Come on, you know you've always wanted to go cross country. Here's your chance to learn how to do it within your budget and time constraints.

Oh Electric Car - Ou Etes Vous?

Exxon Mobil Corp. has just cleared the largest annual profit by a U.S. company — $40.6 billion.