Thursday, February 15, 2018

Perches Above a Rail Yard

It's 1906. A man looks down from his perch high above a rail yard and the flour mills it serves. The caption for the stereograph simply reads "Huge flour mills where grain crops are made into food for the world, Minneapolis, Minnesota."

From our temporary Minneapolis Mill District home, a rented condominium, I love to stare out at a place that was once a busy rail yard serving flour mills. I imagine the complex pattern of rail tracks, the sounds of shunting locomotives, and the sulfurous smoke.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mapping My Next Travels

On a freezing February day in Minnesota, it feels good to think about upcoming travels to warmer places. Today, I've been assembling digital and print maps.

As usual, my winter trip has several phases, each with its own mapping requirements. The trip starts in the Florida Keys and culminates in a walk from one side of Britain to the other along a national trail, the Hadrian's Wall Path. This sounds grander than the reality: the path runs from coast-to-coast at Britain's narrowest point.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Beyond the Hogwarts House

Two blocks from our home in the Minneapolis Mill District, on a dead-end side-street, there's a single-family home that is decidedly different. Some people call it the Hogwarts House; others call it the Arundel House.

I love to stand outside the house and spot fantastical architectural elements, including the wizardly dormer in the photo at the top of this post.

Usually I can continue my walk up the street, beyond the Hogwarts House, and slip through a gap in a barrier. Today, my way is blocked by a chain-link fence and a guard post.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Freakin' Cheap: How to Fly with a Pet Without Paying Fees

December 26, 2017, United Airlines 5637, MSP--SAN. The two women in the AB seats in our row had two dogs on their laps for the entire flight. They stowed two collapsible kennels in an overhead bin.

United Airlines charges $125 per pet brought on board, and it has to be stowed under a seat in a kennel at all times. You might think the round-trip fare for two dogs would be $500.

Wrong. Dogs can travel at no cost.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Snapshots: Whanganui National Park

Today, a jet boat brought us back to a world with Internet and roads.

Three days earlier I maneuvered our rental car along a narrow, winding road, avoiding recent rockfalls. At Pipiriki, New Zealand, a jet boat came to take us up the Whanganui River, through a vertiginous gorge, to the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Snapshots: Egmont National Park

New Zealand's North Island has three national parks: Egmont, Whanganui, and Tongariro. On this trip we selected Egmont and Whanganui, two of New Zealand's less-visited parks.

We've spent two days hiking Egmont's lovely trails, with two more days to go.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Snapshots: Queen Charlotte Track

Our descent into Marlborough, BHE, New Zealand, gave us a preview of our upcoming visit to the region. First we flew over the crenellated, sunken valleys of Queen Charlotte Sound, then we came in low over the vineyards of Marlborough wine country.

Our first priority was to hike the Queen Charlotte Track, a path people usually walk over four days.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Boots over New Zealand

Next week we'll be hiking the Queen Charlotte Track a glorious ridge trail above sea-drowned valleys at the top of New Zealand's South Island. It's a comfortable tramp, just 43 miles over four days.

Maybe that explains why Rudyard Kipling's "Boots" was my earworm the other day:
We’re foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa!
Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa—
(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)         
There’s no discharge in the war!
Kipling took the viewpoint of a British Tommy soldier in southern Africa in the Second Boer War (1899-1902). His racism is relatively subdued in this poem, but he does what he does best, depicting the "white man's burden."

That got me wondering if New Zealand played any part in the conflict. I learned that New Zealand sent troops to support the British Empire. Some Māori men (the first New Zealanders) wanted to enlist, but were turned down because this was a "white man's war."

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Very Japanese Christmas

Christmas was coming to life when I visited Japan in early November. Colonel Sanders, an integral part of Japan's Christmas traditions, was in his Santa garb. Ticket counters in some train stations were decorated with tinsel and little ornaments. Christmas trees were starting to sprout.