Archive for the 'TotalAdventure' Category

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On Saturday afternoon, July 18th, I crossed over the bridge from Superior Wisconsin to Duluth Minnesota. Minnesota was my 46th State and my second new state of the day.

I spent the night in Duluth, a city of low mountains overlooking vast Lake Superior. Though the inhabitants are thoroughly American ,the city has a European look to it.

High Over Lake Superior .Port of Duluth Is Almost 2000 Miles From The Atlantic.

Iron Ore from the Iron Mountains is shipped to steel plants all over the world.

City Hall of Duluth

I stayed at Fitgers Inn, a nice splurge , located in an old brewery.

The Beer Is Pretty Good.

I stopped for lunch in Virginia,Minnesota, heart of the Iron Range.

Hello McFly ? A Town Where Time Stands Still.
Small Government is the Best Government.
The plan was to overnight in Red Lake , but the lake is located in the Sioux Nation and Tribal Elders had declared martial law in order to bar outsiders from entering.I turned around and overnighted in Bemidji instead. Bemidji is where the Mississippi River starts, not much wider than a stream
Bridge To Grand Forks

On Monday morning, July 20th, I crossed the Red River into North Dakota, my 47th State ! The Center of North America ! After an excellent Vietnamese lunch in Grand Forks, I headed out into the farmlands.

Fordville

Miles and miles of soy and beans. Some corn, but this far north there’s only one crop a year. And wheat more than anything.

Amber Waves Of Grain – By September
Back Roads All The Way . Satellite Is A Big Help
Farmer’s Breakfast

I stayed at a hunting and fishing lodge at Devil’s Lake for the night. In the morning I stopped in Esmond and breakfasted at the Esmond Cafe. I ate inside for the first time on the trip. Not one mask in sight, except mine. Everyone very friendly and for most, the first time meeting someone from Miami or New York. COVID was almost nonexistent in North Dakota then, but later the state was devastated, with about 15 % of the population sickened and one in 500 of the population killed.

North Dakota State Capitol – Bismarck

I stopped for lunch in Bismarck ,the capitol. That building is the tallest in North Dakota.

Into The West

In Dickinson I was in the real West. Changed the clock back for the second time in 3 days.

Theodore Rosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a real introduction to a western landscape. Green gives way to brown, flatlands give way to Bad Lands.

A Little Afternoon Delight On The High Plains.
Prairie Dog – Related To Gopher and Marmot.
Slots & Blackjack At Every Bar In The Dakotas
Downtown Deadwood

South of the Park, on US 85, I entered South Dakota , my 48th State ! Spent 2 nights in Deadwood, which was kind of dead, not because of COVID, which people there did not think existed, but because the drinking and gambling town shuts down at 9. Not quite Vegas !

The 4 Greatest !

No words needed to describe Mt.Rushmore. And now – it was time to ride on into Wyoming….

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On the morning of September 10th, I awoke for an early morning dip in the Pacific before heading Eastbound the the Atlantic. Pulling out of my AirBnb Santa Monica garage I was soon eastbound on the 10 and then north on 15 to Las Vegas. Most of this TransContinental Adventure has been off interstates, but they will be used into Utah and again in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.

The Highlight of the Eastbound Cross Country Would Be Utah ,Exploring 5 National Parks.

Fires raged in the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, sending thick smoke down to I-10. Some of the smoke from all the California and Oregon fires spread all the way to the East Coast ,dimming sunrises in New Jersey. This southern smoke band would follow me. I managed to always be a day ahead of it, until Colorado where I changed my itinerary because of it.

Quick Trip Through Vegas.

Normally I would spend a night in Las Vegas, but the wide open fun loving town is a bit clamped down for the moment due to COVID. In the video you can experience a very quick trip up the Strip. I did stop for some video poker at an empty slot hall in Mesquite, Nevada and walked out $ 30 richer. From there it was about 40 miles across extreme Northwest Arizona to St.George Utah where I would spend the night. Changed from Pacific to Mountain Time.

The Gateway To Arches National Park

The next morning I was up with the sun and off to Zion National Park. It was an introduction to the the incredible Utah geology. On the way I visited Hilldale, on the Arizona border. Hilldale is the town known for the highest number of polygamous families adhering to the original Book of Mormon. I saw groups of wives out shopping together dressed in 1800s style farm dresses and driving pickups.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park was the next stop. Now the temperature changed drastically according to elevation. St.George had been expecting a high of 100 degrees and this evening near Bryce the temperature slipped to 32 – I was glad to have a gas fireplace in my cabin for the night.

In the morning I continued through Bryce and then headed Northeast to Teasdale where I would explore Capitol Reef National Park with an old childhood friend I grew up with in Germany. We took a 6 mile hike up a canyon.You can see all the national parks in the video at the top of the page.

Arches National Park Is Otherworldly !

The final two nights were in Moab – home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National park. In Canyonlands the X2 did amazingly well on rugged roads, in spite of the warning signs.

Finally I turned around where a spring had flooded a section of road turning it to muck. Without 4WD,I did not want to risk spending $1000 to be towed !

South Central Utah

 Crossing from Utah into Colorado, the smoke from California finally caught up, turning skies from bright Western blue to greyish white and encasing mountains in haze – diminishing prospects for photo and video acquisition.

Telluride – Old West Town, Now A Mini -Aspen.

Highway 50 climbed rapidly higher into the Rockies and by lunchtime I had reached Telluride, for the first time in 30 years. The big changes are to be expected. What was once a laid back Wild West type town with great skiing with a few bars up and down the main drag was now clogged with tourists even in off season September – looking for parking and lining up for $ 6 lattes. Tourism was higher than in the summer when people had been more cautious of COVID.

Rocky Mountain Stream.

The second night in Colorado was spent at the home of an old friend from the East. His wife is an Olympic ski champion.

La Junta Colorado

On Friday September 18th the X2 crossed the Continental Divide. For the next 1000 miles I would be tracking the Arkansas River from its’ glacial small steam origins to the wide river flowing into the Mississippi.

Spent the night in Syracuse,Kansas . The next morning , driving across table top flat land and crossing from Mountain Time to Central Time, I entered my 50th State – Oklahoma !

Near Where Eustace and Muriel live.

I stopped for lunch in the Panhandle town of Guymon and then went on to the Texas Panhandle.

The Big Texan, Home of the Free 72 Ounce Steak.

Stopping in Amarillo for the night, I stayed next door to the Big Texan. In one of my very few indoor meals of the trip, I dined on Rocky Mountain oysters and delicious Texas T-Bone that was about 20 ounces. The 72 oz steak is free if eaten in an hour. That’s 4 1/2 pounds, 2 kilos of meat. It comes with salad and baked potato which also must be consumed. If not finished in one hour the price is $ 72.

I-40 Eastbound the next morning. Back into Oklahoma. At Oklahoma city, the California smoke finally ended and the skies were clear once again, over the rolling Southern Plains.

Bill Clinton Library Little Rock Arkansas

Spent Sunday night in quiet Little Rock and toured the Capitol city the next morning. The Clinton Library , on the Arkansas River is an architectural masterpiece but closed by COVID.

Kibb’s BBQ – Best In The Southland ?

In Stuttgart I stopped for perhaps the best BBQ I’ve ever had with chopped ribs in a sauce that tasted like plums, coffee and super hot spice ! I bought a gallon jug to take home, which I carefully rationed over the next month.

Last Stop – Sarasota Florida !

From Arkansas into Mississippi I began a straight run back to Miami. Overnighting in Hattiesburg and then through Mobile Alabama to Panama City Florida for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Across the beautiful Panhandle . Though TotalAdventure has been located in Miami for over 18 years, I have never been to the Panhandle. Overnighted in Perry and then to Sarasota, a surprisingly young and thriving town on the Gulf of Mexico.

Back to Miami for a dive into the Atlantic Ocean. Watch the video above !

Mar 9th
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From Adigrat, Ethiopia , it is only 77 miles ( 120. km) to Asmara, Ethiopia. However, the border has been closed since it formed at independence in 1991, other than a brief period in 2019. Instead of 77 miles, I flew nearly 800 miles on 2 flights, from Mekele to Addis Ababa and then from Addis to Asmara, including a lengthy walk from.the domestic terminal to the international terminal.

There are 4 major languages in Eritrea – Tigrina, Arabic,I talian and English, and 9 local languages.

Arrival In Asmara was relatively smooth. Getting the visa is not easy – I actually had an agency in Washington DC handle it, whereas I normally get them on my own. Asmara Airport has flights to Addis Ababa,Dubai,Khartoum, and Mecca.

Asmara is perhaps the best preserved Art Deco city in the world. It is a 1930s Mussolini era time capsule.

Ave Maria Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Grand Mosque.

Eastern Rite Catholic Church.

Snail mail is still used as internet is extremely slow. TotalAdventure could not even access What’sApp.

An Apothecary.

Dining At Hotel Italia. I was the only customer, but had a great pasta and soup meal with beer for about $ 5 – 75 Nafka.

15 Nafka = 1 USD.

Perhaps The Best Coffee In The World. East African Beans, Italian Style.

Ancient Jewelry For Sale.

Getting Ready For Saturday Night.

The city has a. lively nightlife. This picture was taken on a Saturday morning.

Perhaps The Most Art Deco Building In The World After The Chrysler Building In New. York. Fiat Dealership That Closed In The 1960s Due To War

Imported Angolan Grain.

At the flour mill.

Extreme Deco.

TotalAdventure saw most of Asmara in a day. It is a fascinating place with few foreign visitors, the majority of them Italian.

Feb 25th
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TImkat Epiphany In Holy Gondar. Click Video Above.

Priests Enact The Carrying of Boxes Which Carried The Ark Of The Covenant From Jerusalem To Axum, Ethiopia.

TotalAdventure, a Catholic, went to Ethiopia to explore the origins of Christianity. Dismayed by the ever increasing commercialization of Christmas throughput the world, to the point where religion is barely mentioned ,we decided to go where Christmas is not commercial at all, but a joyous occasion celebrating the arrival of Christ on Earth. Like much of the Christian Orthodox world, Christmas is on January 7th and Epiphany 12 days later on January 19th. Because this year,2020 is a Leap Year Timkat was on January 20th. In the West Epiphany is celebrated as the arrival of the 3 Kings, one from Ethiopia. In Ethiopia Timkat celebrates the Baptism of Jesus Christ. In Gondar’s Emperor Fasilides Baths. After many hours of prayer and singing, male participants will dive in , re enacting the Baptism.

Christianity arrived in Ethiopia by the 4th Century. Traditions and mystical celebrations changed little by the time Ethiopia was effectively cut off from Europe and the Holy Land by the 12th Century. The ceremonies we see here, especially in the video above, are the closest to Original Christianity.

As darkness falls on Timkat Eve, the momentum builds, with prayer, chanting and singing.

Another palace of Gondar.

The Three Kings.

TotalAdventure returned to the Fasilides compound by 5 AM. The Faithful were fervently at prayer.

Monks Sing Around The Baths as they have all night.

Dawn Approaches.

Sahle-Work Zewde, the President of Ethiopia, Came From Addis Ababa To Take Part In The Ceremonies.

Blaine Zuver, Director of TotalAdventure, Is Interviewed For the Ethiopia Herald. Story Here.

Part of The President’s Security Unit. Many soldiers were on patrol as well.

At last , after sunrise, the clarions blow and joyful adherents of The Lord re enact The Baptism.

Timkat 2012 ! (2020) The Ethiopian Calendar is 8 Years Behind The Western Calendar.

A Very Unfortunate Incident Occurred At Timkat. Bamboo bleachers are constructed each year so the crowds can get a view above the walls surrounding the Holy Pool. They are built to accommodate perhaps 200 or 300 people.

Just before sunrise the overloaded structure collapsed. Ten people were killed. More than 200 went to the hospital, some paralyzed for life. The ceremony was disrupted for about an hour, then went on.

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Countryside Scenes In Ethiopia. Click On The Video Above.

As Timkat approaches, the entire country gets into celebration mode. We leave Lalibela on. Saturday – 2 days before. Roadside markets are busting, as people stock up on food for the large family feasts after a 24 hour fast.

A music man in the Highlands playing his masinko. Watch him play on the video above.

Coffee beans growing on the side of the road. Ethiopian Coffee is amongst the best in the world !

A boy brings coffee to market. Rural children work for their families, but not for others as far as we could tell. It’s a necessity that armchair moralists of the West may not understand.

All food is very fresh.

Two sisters off to market.

Restaurant Mountain Vista.

A colorful Injera lunch.Various meats and vegetables, mostly cold.

Injera “flour”

United States help is much appreciated. With 109 million people in a mostly desert country , extra supplies are needed.

A cold Saturday morning, everyone on the way to buy and sell.

Drying grain.

Spices are abundant.

Spices Are Abundant.

Inside a market bar. TotalAdventure was obliged to try some of the local firewater – made from fermented fruit that still had seeds floating in it. Powerful ! Though it was only 9 AM, music was blasting.

Bamboo for sale.

Approaching Gondar.

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Click The Video Above

The two day 500 KM journey from Addis Ababa to Lalibela is rugged and fascinating. Ethiopia is a land harkening to Biblical times, with a few modern twists like cars and smartphones.

The two day

On the first night , TotalAdventure stayed in Kombolcha and posted for the first time to the Magazine. After that , the voyage became too bsuy, exploring and traveling until well past sundown, meals with locals, and slow internet made daily contributions difficult. The next morning, before leaving the city, we passed through a market on the main street.

People walk for miles from the countryside to sell. their wares in the market.

Ethiopian markets have many spices In the US this would be sold in tiny packets for many times the price.

Salt , perhaps from Danakil .

Outside town, Gelada monkeys also shopped for food, asking passerby in cars. While many think the climate must be hot, as Ethiopia in in Africa, we were almost always between 7500 and 11000 feet – 2300m -3400m. In January daytime temperatures were generally in the low 70s F( 21C) to about 40 F at night ( 4C ).

Ethiopia is 33% Islamic and 62%. ( mostly Orthodox) Christian. In general there are no conflicts over religion.

Wheat is pulverized into fine powder by the hooves of oxen.

The powder is used to bake inerja – the ubiquitous bread that accompanies almost every meal in Ethiopia.

What appears to be a towel is the inerja. You use it to scoop up the meat and eat everything.

Evening in Kombolcha.

Sep 7th
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Kyrgyzstan was the final and most adventurous country on TotalAdventure’s Central Asia Expedition. Through membership in the Adventure Travel Trade Association we were introduced to Visit Kyrgyzstan. Visit Kyrgyzstan took us to amazing places impossible to get to on one’s own. Please view the video above to experience our amazing voyage.

We drove from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Karakol. We visited a Uighur inspired mosque, as Xinjiang is only about 150 km distant.

Also, a Siberian style wooden Orthodox Church. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, most Russians have left independent Kyrgyzstan.

Our first overnight stop was in a yurt village on the shores of Lake Issy Kul, a Mile HIgh ( 1607 m) and 182 km in length, ( 114 mi) .

Issy Kuul is an alpine lake in the Tien Shan Mountains, which lead into the Himalayas. Those mountains are 40 miles away.

We also explored an abandoned heavy water nuclear processing plant built in Soviet times.

The next day we went to watch Eagle Hunters. Traditional in the highlands of Central Asia, including Mongolia, young eagles are adopted and trained to hunt in a way to bring the prey to their masters, and they are given large amounts of meat in return. The prey is often rabbit or fox. Rabbit is valuable for its’ delicious, nutritious meat and fur good for making gloves. Fox skin also is prized..

The Eagles stay with their families until they are about 15 and are then returned to the wild. Eagle and master bond closely, much like people and dogs. An Eagle lives to 65 to almost 100 years of age.

The Real Adventure Begins. Four Days Journey In The Tien Shan Mountains To Lake Song Kul.

Visit Kyrgyzstan designed a trip to meet the needs of TotalAdventure. We tend to move quickly, with little time for rest. However, it would make a great trip for adventurous travelers in reasonably good physical shape. Our first day was from outside a town to small rugged yurt camp. The second and third nights were at camps with more comfortable yurts and even hot water showers heated by gas. Visit Kyrgyzstan is the exclusive provider for TotalAdventure in Kyrgyzstan.

Meals are hearty and tasty.

Hot meat dumpling soup . High in the mountains the weather is cold even in summer. Daytime temperatures were in the 50s ( 12 -14 C ) and close to freezing at night. 0 c Warm clothing is essential, but extreme winter gear is not required in summer.

Comfortable Yurts with woodburning stoves.

Kumis – Fermented horse milk with a small amount of alcohol.

Lake Song Kul. Elevation about 10,000 feet, ( 3076 m) Mountains still snow covered on July 1. Snow falls from October to May, year round in higher elevations.

Lake from a high vantage. Our highest point was around 12,500 feet, going over a ridge. Some areas were so steep the horses had to be walked.

My Horse enjoying a well deserved lunch.

Our Leader, Ernist. Also featured – the Go Pro that shoots the videos.

Our last . day was spent in the capital city of Bishkek. before returning to the USA via Istanbul.

Kyrgyzstan is a country that has overcome tremendous challenges posed by the Superpowers that surround it and adaptation to a market economy. Sustainable adventure travel and ecotourism as a big part of the economy. TotalAdventure and Visit Kyrgyzstan look forward to working together to bring travelers to this amazingly beautiful part of the world.

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Vietnam Voyage Is A 23 minute excursion from Saigon to DaNang  by air, from DaNang to Hue by train and then from Hue to Hanoi by air. TotalAdventure explores the main sites of the 4 historic cities with culinary adventures ,such as cobra snake in Hanoi.

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In Part 2 of our USA series, TotalAdventure explores Southern California, though we did foray for a short while into Mexico.

 

A younger member of the TotalAdventure Team will be starting college in 2019 and had come West to explore some college campuses in Southern California. Spectacular beaches are always nearby. Pictured above is Swami’s  – a world famous surf break in Encinitas.

In the High Desert of the Mojave Desert – Joshua Tree National Park.

Somewhere East of Indio – I-10.

Korean Dinner in Koreatown – Los Angeles.Kimchi, Pork and Beef, Along With Soju – a Korean Firewater.

Black Pacific Pelicans, Soon Learning To Fly.

The Lazy Can Now Be Lazier – LOL.

CA 94 runs along the southern border of California. Note the border fence about 3/4 the way up the mountain. Now imagine installing a 25 foot high cement wall to replace it. Many geographically challenged people in favor of the wall  think that the border is a flat desert for 2000 miles. Not the case. The mountains are much higher in New Mexico and West Texas. Note the power lines crossing the border as much of the Southwest USA and Northwest Mexico share a power grid.

Running parallel to 1-10 and 1-8 on the other side of the border is Highway 2, rolling 3400 km from Tijuana to Matamoros.

 

USC Film School – in Los Angeles – Modeled after Paramount Studios.

A California Cultural and Culinary Icon.

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October 11th , we left at 6 AM from Uyunyi Town to drive about 3 hours to the Lipiz Sur region, in the extreme Southwest of Bolivia, in the 15,000 foot range along the Chilean border. We left the paved road, which we would not see again for 2 days. Above is Laguna Verde, a beautiful lake at 15,000 feet. Laguna Verde is actually arsenic, and is deadly to all life forms.

Though it is early spring , the temperature does not go above freezing ,even in the day and at night falls to about 10 degrees F or about -14 C. Snow that fell in July and August is sculpted by the high dry winds. However ,TotalAdventure did swim in a 40 C hot spring. That is all on video. Unfortunately due to very slow hotel internet speeds, video will be added later. Even to upload still photos can take several minutes.

 

Thousands of years of freezing dry winds created this natural sculpture.

Before heading into the mountains , TotalAdventure took video of llamas.They are not wild, but do graze independently. THeir owners use them for wool and meat. Llama meat is tasty but tough – lean and high protein. Goes well with quinoa.

As evening approaches, the temperature drops rapidly. For astronauts heading to Mars, Lipiz Sur would be a perfect training venue. The night was spent at a comfortable lodge at 15,500 feet with hot water,  hot meals and even a bar. Video to follow.