The TFL

So, what’s wrong with a lil trip to see the Aspen trees turning to gold in Snowmass followed by a trip to Napa Valley? Not very much. The crush was on in the wine country and the grape guru’s were the talk of the town. What one restaurant do you go to eat if you’ve never been and have way too much money in your money market account? The French Laundry, or affectionately called by the locals, “The TFL”. Dinner for two (I took my lodging host Todd who is a vinter himself) is about the cost of a fairly somewhat reliable 1994 vehicle with miles that is currently running just fine. It is worth every penny, especially if you like dining for hours, know your spices/herbs, like innards of various species (remember, I am from Alabama) and are very hungry. The Sommelier is Gregory Castells and such a friendly guy to have visit your table even if it’s just to chat….he apparently knows his stuff. His first recommendation for the first courses was a tidy bottle of delicious Burgundy, a silky Musginy. Being a Bordeaux freak, I noticed he had a ‘special’ suggestion on the extensive list, known as a first growth wine, so I asked, “how ’bout dat ’94 Mouton, big man”? (No he’s not a big man, this is a southern thing once again) ‘It is drinking damn good’ was what I heard how ever sommeliers say that. I know, you uppety wineo’s are thinking, ‘that’s not fair, how can you go wrong with Mouton Rothschild’? But HEY, I’ve not had a belly full of Anything Rothschild so WHY THE HELL NOT? Leave me alone already. I’m still suffering from the car comparison. And yes, I do like Napa wines, but this is the FRENCH Laundry!

I did finish up in LA having the paparazzi flash the cameras at us as we walked into KOI for dinner. Wrong again guys, we’re nobody’s. The next night was a special dinner in Beverly Hills, and let’s just say, at a very special home.

Surviving August

Would someone please remind me next year that the month of August might best be spent somewhere other than the SOUTH!  It’s hot everywhere.  I just visited my old home on Dog River down in southern Alabama. Visited old friends, drank some chilly beers and headed to dinner with my friend JP. We grabbed a bit of fried seafood on the Mobile Causeway at the Blue Gill.  If you’ve never been on the Causeway, imagine a four lane highway just slightly above sea level with swamp everywhere.  There’s no reason to cross the damned thing unless you just want to experience what it’s like to be a marsh-an.  The various seafood restaurants and bars there for the most part these days are elevated to survive floods and such. Not the Blue Gill. It’s just going to flood and blow away when the next hurricane shows up.  That’s just a minor distraction for them. They charged me a $5 cover to go sit outside in the heat, swat mosquito’s and listen to loud music.  Heat can make you delirious. I suspect that’s a donation to their rebuilding fund.

Maui – Earthrace Update

Hey, this is a picture of me and Pete Bethune the skipper of Earthrace as they landed in Maui. I was presenting him and the crew with Tibetian dZi beads(pronounced Zee) which among many attributes they are known to ‘ward off evil’, and bring about ‘good luck’.

As they were two weeks late getting to Hawaii, I was not able to join them on the ride to Majuro in the Marshall Islands.

Waiting for Earthrace 3

Well I’m here and it is basically as I suspected. Soft spoken people relaxing by the pool after yoga or chores; most of the girls are without tops, and surprisingly beautiful. This is a 20-30 year old group of free age types. A parent from Buckhead might be horrified if their children were here, while those from Midtown Atlanta would probably be proud. I suspect these folks are democrats to the core. Driving thru the town of Pahoa on the way here gives you a clue to the culture of this part of Hawaii. They don’t have any welcome signs, but the street has hand painted signs that say ‘Yoga’, ‘Reikii’, ‘Pilates’, and ‘Spiritual Healer’ to lure you in! By the time I got to the other end of town, I was laughing..not at them, but at how genuine this really is and not a contrived vision of Walt Disney.

This place I’m staying can be viewed online at www.kalani.com. It truly is worthy of serious economic analysis, here’s why. I’m about the only guest that is paying full boat for lodging. Most everyone here is a ‘volunteer’ which means they work some during the week in order to pay much less to stay here. Now isn’t that something..a society where you pay to work and are happily smiling! I highly recommend someone in college/graduate school needing to write a paper on social economics get over here soon. This is a best seller in progress. It certainly is a way for those inheriting small amounts of wealth or have saved a little to stretch their funds into the future while living in paradise. You certainly will not be totally disappointed at the scenery by the pool no matter what you’re looking for if anything.

There is no alcohol here. The reason isn’t that they are trying to be healthy. These people don’t have money for that. They are living on air. One of the employees that works full time brought a bottle of homemade wine and offered me a glass. I was happy to have it and not upset he didn’t bring more. All employees and volunteers eat three meals a day for free..that’s way better than using food stamps and having to cook for yourself. I don’t mean to imply these people are food stampers at all. In fact their system works incredibly well. Again, it needs to be studied!

So I’m off to do some exploring of one of the worlds most active volcano’s, snorkel with the turtles, or view the incredible landscape before my late afternoon massage.

Waiting for Earthrace 2

ONE DEAD FISHERMAN IS THE SAD RESULT OF THE COLLISION BETWEEN EARTHRACE AND A SMALL FIBERGLASS FISHING PANGA OFFSHORE OF GUATEMALA. COLLISIONS THERE ARE APPARENTLY A COMMON OCCURANCE AS MOST OF THESE LOCAL LITTLE BOATS DO NOT HAVE THE INTERNATIONALLY REQUIRED LIGHTS FOR BEING OFFSHORE AT NIGHT, AND THEY ARE SO LOW TO THE WATER AND WITHOUT METAL SURFACES THAT RADAR IS NOT LIKELY TO MAKE A ‘BLIP’ SO THEY ARE SEEN WITH THAT TECHNOLOGY. TO GET THE STORY, WWW.EARTHRACE.NET or to go directly to the emotional blog where the Captain met the family of the deceased fisherman.

On a happier note, I’m really enjoying myself in Hawaii. So far, I’ve been to Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and will soon be on the Big Island of Hawaii. I have reservations for a few days at a place that for all intents and purposes appears to be a commune. It is along the coast down near the volcanic lava flow outside of the town of Hilo. I will be there for a few days where they will cook healthy stuff organically grown. When you wake up you do yoga and/or hike and after lunch you do another type of yoga and/or hike somewhere else where they put down mats and do yet another different yoga. I’ve looked all over the website of the place and see no mention of a wine list or anything about a crawfish boil and a beer bust. No blenders can be seen in any pictures; much less is there any event that remotely sounds like ‘happy hour’. I think they play volleyball at what we would consider cocktail hour. Hey, when in Hilo..! I’ve heard of a ‘cleanse’ before, but is that what I’m in for?

Waiting for Earthrace

Waiting for Earthrace to arrive in Hawaii is exciting even though the endeavor is off to a rocky start. After an emergency propeller change in the Panama Canal, they experienced engine failure while offshore of Guatemala. It appears they made it to port there. I’ve been to Guatemala this time of year. They burn sugar cane fields, which puts a smoky haze over the landscape that probably would be beautiful otherwise.

I am scheduled to ride Earthrace from Hawaii to Majuro in the Marshall Islands, about 2500nm. My friends don’t get it. They keep asking when my cruise starts. What cruise asks you to bring 7 pair of clean underwear and a pillow? My mother gets it, she say’s “I wouldn’t go”!

I’ve been eating some great sushi, first at the Hyatt Regency at Lehaina, Maui, and then at a dive of a place here in Honolulu. I ate the liver of an Abalone Clam. OH MY! It really tasted like they said it would..like foie gras. The chef asked me first if I was allergic to anything and according to my recent one and only allergy test, I’m moderately allergic to everything but I do remember they didn’t specifically test me for reactions to clam liver!

I’m not drinking my usual vat of wine a day in preparation for my ‘cruise’, and hoping to be in the best shape for the ride. There is a 70 something year old California farmer riding here from San Deigo. What a guy! I can’t wait to meet him!

Somewhat out of shape old hippies smoking pot can surf like sonsabitches necked at a nude beach on Maui! There are several awesome radio stations playing oldies for those old hippies, and I’m enjoying reliving the 60’s thru the radio. I play the car radio very loud and no one has cared while stopped at the red lights. No one seems to pay attention to me here either!

Families are having plenty to do here from watching whales offshore and Koi swimming around the ponds at the hotel. I guess swimming in the pool is enough adrenaline flow for most land lubbers but it’s so neat to see the lone surfer. He parks along a vacant stretch of the beach road and paddles himself offshore and waits. I wonder just what all goes through the minds of people all alone eye level with oncoming wave’s hours on end.

Speaking of adrenaline, I heard about a guy I know of that got arrested for indecent exposure in an Atlanta Airport restroom. Seems he found a stall for two. That’s a weird way to get your adrenaline going and a fast way to ruin your day; maybe your life. Time will be the only vaccine for him. I suggest he fess up, separate from the wife, and move out to Hawaii and watch the hippies surf while sipping Perrier. They apparently won’t arrest you here for that and if they do you’d be elevated to high esteem and considered a martyr, not a pervert.

Later! I’m about to go hike up a crater.

Sam Thompson – 50 in 50 in 50

Sam Thompson stops by to visit on his quest to complete 50 Marathons in 50 Days in 50 States. Ok, well, not exactly….it is really 51 Marathons since he decided to add the District of Columbia by running two in one day. He finished his 51st marathon on August 19, 2006 in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. Congratulations Sam!!

Check out his site and send a contribution to his most worthy cause….the GULF COAST OF MISSISSIPPI.

Summer 2006

This summer sizzles. I saw the movie “Inconvenient Truth” and will be investing in waders soon.

I flew to Toms River to have lunch with an old friend. Eddie R has had his impact on my life, and it was good to see him the family. Then, I went on to Long Island to visit Sag Harbor, and finally Madison, WS to visit my friend Pierre’s homeplace. His mother recently died, and there’s a for sale sign in at the end of the gravel driveway.

You know, there is a disappearing generation of homes that people like me grew up in. Parents die, downsize, or go to assisted living and the homestead gets sold to a young couple ready to renovate, or a developer ready to bulldoze. PLEASE, would someone go do a coffee table book and document these fabulous homes? The ones with old kitchens, black and white family pictures on the wall, shelves full of great books, crank out windows, wooden or plaster walls, screened in porches, and a china cabinet full of stuff they never used. I can smell the place now. I’ll buy the first copy and advertise it on my site.

All else I know is that I’m over due taking a fishing trip.

New Orleans / Hurricane Katrina

I had one of my rare sight seeing flights on my departure from New Orleans Lakefront Airport along the gulf coast of Mississippi, to Dauphin Island, Alabama, and then up Mobile Bay to Mobile Regional Airport. I flew at around 700 feet, pretty low for those that don’t know. The devastation was intense all the way, but especially around Pass Christian, Mississippi. In fact, there just wasn’t much left standing, with one exception. There was one house standing there amongst the devastation all alone, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb. From the air, it looked like you could just unlock the door and move on in. I was so intrigued and extraordinarily cat curious. Wondering how that could be about drove me to another drink or two for weeks, until I saw a special on that particular house on CNN.

Here’s the scoop. It was being built out of concrete by a structural engineer to survive a Hurricane Camille size storm surge. Ole Katrina was 6′ higher than that amazing 1969 storm, one fact no one should take lightly. Yet, his house survived. Now, how about this..the cost of construction for his home, he says, is about 10% more than conventionally used methods. I hope to meet this cool guy some day. Insurance companies, builders, homeowners, developers and the like should just do what is right, and build quality structures no matter where they are. Period.