Apfelstrudel at zum Wildschutz Restaurant, Garmisch

Monday, December 4, 2017

           Still awaiting comments.  So in the interim here are some recommendations for travel based on my future Camino pilgrimage (yes, it seems all pilgrims try to return),  First of all, is a travel item called the Clipa2.  You can see it demonstrated on Youtube if you do a search.  It's a handy device that looks like a plain bracelet and it can be used as such.  They come in a few different colors.  But its purpose is more utilitarian.  It opens on a hinge so you can hang your pack or purse or whatever on a table.  More importantly, it has great utility at toilets.  You can hang your pack/purse near you instead of putting it on what could be a nasty, germ-filled floor.  It also offers a bit of security in that you can hang your item near you instead of on a hook on the toilet door.  Thieves often simply put their hand over the door and take your item off the door hook, then run.  It's not like you're in a position to immediately jump up and run them down. I highly recommended this item and have given it as a gift to traveling friends.

          Another item I think is great for travel or simply at home when you're a bit cold is what some military members call a "woobie."  The official term for it is poncho liner.  Prior and present military members sing the praises of a woobie for good reason.  It is a very light-weight, reasonably sized, super warm blanket.  It can be stuffed in a compression stuff sack and return to its shape immediately when removed.  It would take up some, but not a whole lot, of room in a pack but not as much as the standard sleeping bag.  I bought a 3.3 to 10 liter AEGISMAX Compression Stuff Sack for it on Amazon.

        Speaking of AEGISMAX items, I bought a couple of their down sleeping bags for when my wife and I go on our Camino pilgrimage in the future.  I made sure to buy the whitish-gray ones so any bedbugs can be spotted easily and done away with.  The bags are very lightweight quite warm, and reasonably roomy.  They come with a compression stuff sack and the bag will fit in it but you have to work at it and that's something you don't want to do when getting up early to start walking in the dark.  So I bought the same compression sack mentioned above.  Works very well.

       And, speaking of those nasty bedbugs that can infest even the best hotels, I bought a couple Sea to Summit Coolmax Adapter Liners with Insect Shield.  Great for travel (used them when we went to Machu Picchu in Peru).  They are comfortable and come with their own stuff sack.  It seems I buy most of my stuff on Amazon.  I often research potential buys on Youtube.   It's a great way to see if an item fits specifications/uses you are looking for.

       That's it for now.  Hoping for some comments, etc.  Don't be shy!

Friday, November 17, 2017

For the Gearheads

Gear time!  I have a few recommendations based on gear I've recently purchased.  Inflatable pillows have always been a great idea in concept but in practicality, they can sometimes lack in comfort.  I still like my Cocoon inflatable pillows but I really am impressed with Trekology's Dreamer Comfort Ultralight inflatable pillows (you can find them on Amazon) which my wife and I used while stuck in an airport in Peru.  They are easy to inflate.  They are big enough.  And, they are really, really comfortable.  One now resides in my grab-and-go travel pack.  I recommend their newest iteration which makes it even easier to inflate and deflate.  When rolled up in its case, it takes up hardly any space at all and it's super-light.  Trekology has a pretty good self-inflating pillow as well but it takes up more space.  My goal is to travel with a small backpack and, for me, size and weight matter.  What I'm most impressed with about Trekology, however, is the fantastic customer service they offer.  I had a question about an inflatable pillow and they responded to my email very quickly.  They want satisfied customers so if you have a concern, they will make it right.  I would imbed a picture and link but I have to relearn how to post them on this blog so my apologies at present.  Check the pillow out on Amazon and get one (or two).  You will be impressed!

Speaking of inflatables, I recently purchased a Rugged Mountain Inflatable Compact Sleep Mat, also on Amazon.  There are others very similar to it so just search Inflatable Compact Sleep Mat and see what comes up.  I believe I got the very last one Rugged Mountain was selling.  I chose that one out of all the others for a few reasons.  It was a bit bigger than the others in width.  I chose the orange one.  Why?  Well, first of all, I can spot it easily and so can others.  Also, I learned a lesson on the Camino about bedbugs--I was bitten numerous times (I'm a bug magnet).  Although I did a pretty good search, they still got me.  Those bugs are gonna show up really easy against a bright orange background.  Speaking of background, if you find yourself having to sleep at an airport, put your mat across from a security camera.  The bad guys typically are on the lookout for them and will hesitate or simply pass on coming over to steal from you when there's a camera potentially watching and recording their every move.  Here's part of the advertising copy for that mat: Inflates to an accommodating 76x25x2 inch tall & wide pad with plenty of room to sprawl out comfortable, & compacts into a small 9x3x3 inches weighing in at only 14.4 ounces; Fits in your backpack with ease;  The features are truly equivalent if not better than pads priced three times higher; With an R-value of 1.3, water proof materials, & full size design, our pad crushes the competition on features and value;  Perfect for travel, military or emergency use.

Speaking of bedbugs and security, you will recall I recommended a Streamlight flashlight for security earlier in the blog.  It is still a good choice but in addition to security, you can use the flashlight to look for bedbugs where you stay.  Bedbugs can be just about anywhere humans sleep, even in the most expensive hotels.  They like to come out at night and feast.  So far there are no reports they carry any diseases, but the bites will make you miserable for days (I can certainly attest to that) and they hitch rides on your bags and clothing to infest other places you stay and finally your home when you get back.  It costs a lot to get rid of an infestation if they come home with you so it's best to stop them from getting you and your pack in the first place.  By the way, put your bag in the bathtub when you first arrive at your lodging so the bugs can't easily infest.  You'll see them first.  You can then place the bags on the room luggage rack after you've done a thorough flashlight search for them.  I've found a few other flashlights that put out mucho lumens and are not too pricey.  They should make it easier to spot the nasty little critters or signs they are there.  The lightweight penlights are the "Sleuth Black AA" penlight, the "Coast HP3 LED Universal Focusing 105 Lumen Penlight," and the "Thorfire PF04 Pen Light."  All three can be found on Amazon and are reasonably priced.  The Thorfire is good for those who work in the medical field for patient assessment as it has three levels of brightness that would be great for both the hospital setting and for regular use.  I have had some interaction with Customer Service at both Coast and Thorfire and they, like Trekology, want satisfied customers so if you have a concern, they will make it right.  I found a great Youtube video on using small tactical flashlights (the Sleuth Black AA and the Coast penlights can fit that category) from CRKT entitled "The Best Personal Defense Tools and How to Use Them."  Great advice!  You don't need a knife.  A metal pen in combination with one of the penlights above (or the Streamlight) will make a good defense.  Speaking of items to be used as weapons, the penlights should make it past TSA as they are actually penlights--it's just that they can be used for defense if needed.  Before my wife and I traveled to Peru, I queried a friend, a highly respected self-defense expert, on what I could carry for defense that wouldn't be confiscated at the airport.  He recommended a penlight that could be used tactically and said his daughter was presently backpack traveling in Europe.  She was carrying a "tactical" penlight as well.

So there are a few gear suggestions for the gearhead readers out there.  Do ya'll have any suggestions/experiences with similar gear you would like to share?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

           Hi folks!  I'm back.  It's been a long time since I last posted.  Lots of things have happened since then.  During the Fall of 2015, I was a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile trek on foot across Spain.  Folks have done this pilgrimage since at least 900 AD.  I learned a lot and am still learning from the experience.  Every pilgrim will tell you the same thing about the pilgrimage: "It will change your life."  It's absolutely true!  There are lots of reasons to walk the Camino:  religious, spiritual (me), dealing with grief or a life event requiring time and uncluttered thought to sort  through, travel, even adventure.  There are lots of blogs about the Camino so I won't write too much about it at this point.  A few neat things happened to me on the trail that I will just put out there:  I have Native American blood and I started to embrace that aspect of my heritage around Summer 2015.  I walked the Camino during Fall 2015 (started a week after my 60th birthday) and told some of my Native friends of my plan.  They remarked I was going on my vision quest.  I had to go research what exactly a vision quest is--I grew up as a white guy (Celtic and North European heritage) in Appalachia.  Turns out, Native Americans do their vision quest while undergoing puberty.  So at 60 years old, I was a bit of a late-comer.  In essence, persons seeking their "vision" typically go out alone and wait at a place, sometimes for days, for their totem (spirit guide) to assist in providing a "vision" or epiphany that indicates what life-path one will or should take.  My totem is the crow and in recognition of such I had a crow feather hanging from my pack as I walked the Camino.  A crow alerted me to my vision during that trek and I didn't even have to stay at one static location.  Got it while walking alone.  Bottom line is I did get my vision and it turns out I had intuitively chosen the right life-path decades ago.  Also, I believe I met an angel on the pilgrimage.  I am an investigator by profession so I'm a bit conflicted by that conclusion as the investigator in me needs additional evidence but spiritually I can't say with certainty the interaction was not with an angel.  I also met a friend for life from South Africa and we correspond multiple times a week.  I consider her part of my family.  While on the Camino, I had opportunity to put the gear I had chosen for the walk through the paces and most of my choices were spot-on in terms of utility, weight, pack space, function, and durability.  Just about every pilgrim will tell you they long to return to the Camino.  There are numerous routes to explore.  I also long to return and to that end, I have selected improved items to take on my next pilgrimage.  The next few topics will discuss my upgrade choices and why.  They can easily be used during any travel so I hope you will like them and find this blog helpful.  As always, please ask questions and tell us all your thoughts, experiences, and reviews of travel gear and destinations.  Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hi ya'll!  An additional age-related challenge for me.  I now am the owner/user of a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine.  It's used to alleviate sleep apnea.  Overall, it will be a good thing as I have been getting only about four hours of real sleep a night over the past couple decades and that takes a toll over the years.  I will have lots more energy to explore and walk due to the therapy.  The one I got weighs about 6.5 pounds (around 3 kg) and comes in a briefcase-sized case.  It appears to be dual voltage (110 VAC/ 220 VAC) so I will probably be able to use it with an adapter should I be lucky enough to travel to Europe again (still working on that travel aspect).  But there is no way I can fit it into my backpack so I have to now modify my one-bag methodology and I will no longer have both hands free while traveling.  That will increase the weight I will be carrying to just over 31 pounds (around 14 kg).  It's my understanding the CPAP won't count against my carry-on baggage limit, though, so that's a positive.  The real positive is that I will finally get restful sleep and will be able to get more out of any travel now that I will have more energy.  Anyone else out there with a CPAP that can give us all the benefit of your experience traveling with it?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Just a quick note here.  Something I never thought of when planning a trip, especially a trip involving a lot of walking which, as regular readers will note, is my idea of the best kind of trip.  I had planned on blisters and have a blister kit ready.  But, as I age, I've gained an unwelcome complaint:  plantar faciitis.  It's a condition that causes great foot pain especially in the heel area.  I looked it up and asked around querying mostly folks my age (58).  Lots of folks get it and it goes away after about six months to a year.  This can cause great problems when your trip involves lots of walking.  Fortunately, I found a quick solution that mitigates the condition a lot.  And that solution takes up little room in your pack as well as providing a recreational use.  The solution:  a tennis ball.  Roll the ball with your foot while pressing your foot down upon the ball at the end of the day or after prolonged sitting.  Works for fallen arches too (yep, I have that as well courtesy my military career with Uncle Sam).  Ibuprofen (known to hikers as "Vitamin I") combined with the tennis ball therapy works wonders!  Perhaps I should be so bold as to say it's a vacation saver.  Make room in your pack.  You could be glad you did!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Glad to report my job situation has changed so the only real constraint I now have is budget.  That's something I can work at with the expectation of eventual success.  Today, I weighed out my clothing for a one month European trip keeping in mind it had to fit in my medium-sized backpack.  Clothing for the pack consisted of two pairs of Exofficio Nomad pants, three pairs of Exofficio underpants, two wicking undershirts, two pairs of Darn Tough merino wool socks, a handkerchief, a Sierra Designs money belt, two "river" shirts, a silk sleep shirt, and a pair of trail-runner shoes.  Total weight comes in at 4 and a half pounds.  Clothing I would be wearing for the travel day including a Scottevest with detachable hood and arms so I can use it as a rain jacket as well (weighs two and a quarter pounds all by itself) would be similar to the pack contents (for a total of three changes of clothing and includes a second pair of shoes) weighs in at about five and a half pounds FSO (from skin out).  I have also ordered some EZ towels to reduce pack weight and increase pack room.  They are button-sized, super light-weight, compressed rayon washcloths that open out to about the size of a standard washcloth.  I also ordered a lightweight compressed beach towel that is about the size of a hockey puck until opened.  I will do a review on them when they arrive.  My wife and I plan to do some regional travel once the weather is friendlier here in WV.  It will be budget camping travel and most likely using our SUV as the tent.  We have plenty equipment for camping and can tailor the setup for conditions and duration.  More on that later.  Happy to be back in the situation that I will be able to travel again!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A major life change for me.  Had to get a "real" job which means my overseas travel will most likely discontinue for awhile as the job is in one location only.  All the more reason for readers to share their hints.  Of course, if I win a lottery (not likely) I will be globe hopping until I get the wanderlust out of my system (that won't happen either).  So no, I have not forgotten this blog.  The goal of the blog is to provide travel hints to and from readers.  Although I most likely won't be an overseas traveler, I can still travel locally.  Expect more on that aspect later!

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Reader Joani has recommended a travel website.  She does a bit of traveling so I am very happy to pass along her recommendation, especially on my birthday!

Vayama.com is a great travel search engine for flights around the world. You can also look up the airlines that service the country you're visiting and visit their individual sites.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Still Waiting

Still awaiting inputs.  Lessons learned:  summer is not the time to depend on guest posts. Thought I was going to do some work related travel but that fell through.  Hopefully some input soon.  Thanks for checking.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just a quick note to all that I haven't given up on this blog.  I simply have not been traveling and my friends have yet to send in inputs (but their insights will be well worth it). 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hospital Stay - Not Your Standard Vacation Travel

For those who have been wondering why I haven't been posting: two main reasons.  First, I had surgery for cancer (got it all!) and have been recovering.  Secondly, I have not had much in the way of  inspiration for articles to write.  Some friends have promised guest articles but I have yet to receive them (sometimes life gets in the way). I have been depending on those articles and comments in the comments section to help in getting information out and generating ideas for articles.  I did get some off-line feedback from a friend to focus a bit more on the positives of travel vice the frugal aspect so I will try to work that in.  There's so much gee whiz, neato stuff about travel that can be focused upon.

 I'm limited to carrying no more than 4 kg (ten pounds) for the next month so I won't be using my pack for any pack vacations.  Our last kid in the house just graduated high school and my wife and I will celebrate 37 years of marriage this week so I plan to "go someplace" in celebration.  It will most likely be regional travel but I hope to generate an article about that.  I did a quick check of a state park a couple hours away and the frugal versus the medically responsible has already given me much to wrestle with.  I have accumulated great camping gear and could outfit a nice stand-alone off-grid site for weeks at a time.  The gear has some weight to it and I am limited to ten pounds lifting.  A tent camp site there costs $26/night.  A lodge room there with all the amenities costs $100/night.  I should add that my wife thinks we're too old to tent camp anymore.  I believe you can guess how this is going to end.  To make it worse, if I was camping on my own, I'd stealth hammock camp for free.  One thing this experience with cancer has taught me is to take time for vacation with family and friends.  I have been self-employed the past seventeen years and worked as an investigator for more than a quarter century.  Those work conditions can suck up all your time and at the end of the day, upon reflecting upon my life, I have concluded work accomplishments should not outweigh life accomplishments which include recreation.

 I do have a few observations from my time staying in the hospital.  Yes, it is a stretch to say my hospital stay is travel related but I did travel from my home state to another for the surgery.  We had reserved a room on the hospital campus for my wife to stay (me too when not in the hospital) and got the optional "room with kitchenette" thinking my wife would be able to cook her own ethnic food while there.  My thinking was "home food" would reduce her stress by having something familiar and cooked just the way she likes it.  We packed some food in addition to a Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Lunch Jar for her to take to the waiting area for lunch during my surgery.  The Mr. Bento is a well designed thermal lunch kit with sections for soup, rice, veggies, and dessert or other meal items.  She said it worked well for the circumstances we had envisioned for its use.  But, let's go back a little bit before the Mr. Bento mention.  When we got to the guesthouse (hotel) room, we quickly discovered there was a stove, microwave, and refrigerator, but no pots or pans and no dishes.  Fortunately, I prefer to use our own cooking and eating utensils and had packed a nice Embark mess kit I use for solar cooking and my Fozzils dinnerware.  So, lesson learned, bring your own or at least ask the reservations clerk about cooking equipment if you reserve a room with kitchenette for any travel.

Mr. Bento Stainless Lunch Jar
I brought my "second string" sleep mask and earplugs with me in case I got a roommate at the hospital.  My reasoning for not taking the best I had was that I was not truly in control of what was to occcur during my stay and I did not want to lose them.  The rooms at the hospital are configured for two patients per room.  I was fortunate the first night that I did not have a roommate.  I was in pain and the annoyance of a roommate would have made my night just that much more miserable.  I was assigned a roommate the second day and I quickly learned I would pay for my strategy of using standard earplugs instead of the better ones I recommended earlier in this blog.  My roommate had the ability to talk loudly on the phone one minute, and immediately fall asleep when not talking.  His particularly loud gurgling snoring while asleep could cut right through the earplugs I brought.  Fortunately for me, I was discharged late that evening.  
So I brought minimal travel gear with me but what I did take, other than the earplugs, served us well.  Travel gear, in my opinion, should have use for other than just vacations.  That's it for now.  Hope to have some articles in the near future. Make some comments.  Send me some guest articles.  Participate please.  OK?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Will be out of pocket for the next week or so due to surgery.  One of my friends has committed to writing a guest article or two, just not in the next week or so.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Please check in periodically.  Things  going on in my life that must be attended to.  If I get any guest articles in, I'll post them.  And I'm pondering  what my next article(s) will be. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Even more of my favorite travel gear

Some of my favorite travel gear (in no particular order). 

Fozzils:  Foldable plate, cup, and bowl origami-style.  Weighs around four ounces and folds flat.  You can use the plate as a cutting board when unfolded.  My wife thinks I’m silly to have this but it has utility if you decide to buy some things at the grocery while traveling and want to prepare it on something other than a paper towel .  It will definitely be a conversation starter.   

Sheet soap:  Dry sheets of soap.  Container with fifty sheets weighs under four ounces.  I use a few sheets for laundering clothes in the sink at travel lodging at the end of the day.  Hint:  remove the dry sheets to be used before your fingers get damp.    I’ve used ‘em for bigger loads in a washing machine as well.  Just put ‘em in on top of the clothes before water is added to the machine.

Scottevest:  My day bag alternative.  First time buyers get a discount.  This is an expensive clothing item but well worth it in utility and quality.  Mine has 22 pockets including hidden pockets.  Put items you would typically pack in a day bag or second carry-on bag and your pockets at the airport and just send your vest through the X-ray.   Some museums and other venues in Europe (most likely elsewhere nowadays because of bombers) won’t allow you to carry a day bag into the area and you have to place it in a locker before entry.  No problem with this vest.  Just put your stuff in it instead—it even has room for a bottle of water or your favorite beverage.  The one I have is black and I believe that could be a bit uncomfortable in warm/hot weather.  Just so happens I have a travel vest with far fewer pockets I purchased a couple years ago in Germany that is sand colored so it reflects heat away from me much better than a black vest would.  But I have been spoiled by the number of pockets in the Scottevest.  I also had a sand colored mesh fishing vest I purchased in Korea decades ago.  I turned the mesh vest inside out and my wife sewed it into the German vest as a liner.  Now I have double the pockets but not as many as the Scottevest.  The utility of a travel vest is well worth getting one.  Zipped up, this vest is a pickpocket's nightmare or serious challenge.

Recon Wrap:  A Recon Wrap is a tube of special wicking material that can be easily folded to make a multitude of head coverings like a beanie, helmet liner, etc.  It only weighs one ounce  and comes in black, olive drab, and beige.  I have two—a black one and the olive drab.  I really like it and have given them as gifts.  

Security Flashlight:  This Streamlight flashlight only weighs three ounces with two AA Engergizer lithium batteries installed.  It has three settings:  intense bright (and it’s really, really bright), strobe, and regular.   I carry this flashlight as a nonlethal weapon.  The strobe disorients during a confrontation and the flashlight can be used as a kubotan if your adversary gets more aggressive.  It’s just the right size to carry in pocket or hand and serves all the duties of any standard flashlight as well. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I'm still waiting on my guest article inputs and am quite busy earning a living this week so until I can provide something of more substance, here's Some more of my favorite travel gear.

Some of my favorite travel gear (in no particular order). 

Kiva Packable Tote:  One of the things I found out in Germany is that some stores don’t offer free plastic bags to put your purchases in or if they do, the bags can’t handle too much weight.  So I got a Kiva packable tote.  It weighs just four ounces, holds  about fifteen liters, is fairly rugged and waterproof,  and fits in your pocket. I got the plain 'ol black one--I was around during the hippie days but I never got into flowers as a design of choice.    It actually serves a good purpose when traveling and you find it necessary to make a purchase at the grocery shop.  Gearhead stuff……I suppose so, but it still has my recommendation.

Cocoon Pillow:  Nice inflatable pillow weighing four ounces and is a little smaller than a softball when compressed and placed in its bag.  So it takes up very little space.  Opens up to a nice sized pillow good for travel or camping.  Each side of the pillow has a different material:  one fleece-like, one nylon-like.  Very comfortable. This pillow is part of my travel sleeping kits.

SteriPen:  A great water treatment option when traveling in countries or areas with questionable water quality.  I have a chronic medical condition so I must be careful to get safe drinking water.  This does the trick and the weight of the pen with batteries is only seven and a half ounces (pen and case).  There are lots of youtube videos on use.  One downside is that it makes the water safe to drink. It doesn’t change the taste of the water so if your water tastes icky before making it safe, it will taste icky after you make it safe.  I use a two step method by making the water safe with the SteriPen and then filtering the safe water through a bottle with an integrated carbon filter.  Best of both worlds that way.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

This past Sunday was the one-month anniversary of the start of this blog.  I'm working diligently to write something useful daily but I hope some articles in the making by friends can be posted soon.  Looking at my blog stats, I am a bit discouraged by the relatively small readership.  Surprisingly, forty to forty-five percent of my readership appears to be from Russia and the Ukraine.  Большое спасибо.  I have some readers in Germany, some in Great Britain, my niece in Korea, and hits from Venezuela and France.  The rest are from here in the United States.  I sincerely thank my readers for coming to the blog and ask that you share with your contacts if you think the blog has some value.  Writing a blog is not as easy as some would have you think but I'm still motivated to get information out and hope that readers will send information in so we can all learn from one another.  Tomorrow, more gearhead stuff unless I get a guest article in to provide a different perspective.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Some of my favorite travel gear

Some of my favorite travel gear (in no particular order) for fellow gearhead readers.  I’ll add to the list from time to time.  I had photos added from the vendors' websites but there were of really crappy quality so I've deleted them.  You can see a photo of the item at the link for the item.  I make it a point to write about gear that I have personally used.

Vapur Element Anti-bottle:  I carry a one liter Vapur Element Anti-bottle on my travels.  There are a number of reasons I like this one compared to other cheaper bottles.  The foremost reason for carrying a foldable bottle is pack space.  It weighs about one and a half ounces folded so a regular plastic water bottle weighs less but takes up much more room in the pack when not needed.  The Element takes up little space in the folded configuration until you fill it with your favorite beverage (water for me).  I like the shape of it compared to other one liter bottles out there.  I bought a foldable one liter bottle at Walmart yesterday for my daughter’s upcoming mission trip in Nepal.  Got it home and filled it—the shape is relatively short and fat which will make it difficult to slip into and retrieve from an outside mesh pocket on a backpack.  The Element’s shape is backpack friendly and it is made here in the USA.  I like to “buy American” when I can.  The mouth on the Walmart bottle is rather narrow in comparison to that of the Element which is big enough you can put ice cubes in it if you hadn’t thought to put it in the freezer a few hours before your departure.  I’m looking for an old shopping bag with a reflective lining we have somewhere here in the house that we bought at an Army commissary a few years back.  The zipper on it is shot but I can repurpose a portion of that bag to make an Element cover to keep cold things cold longer.  An added bennie is the Element is BPA free.  And, it's relatively unusual so it may spark a conversation...ya never know.....

Eagle Creek Packable Day Bag:  Although my travel bag goal is one bag as in the fifty liter backpack I use, I do carry an additional day bag in the pack for use once I get to my lodging.  Why carry a twenty-five pound pack around with me all day?  The day pack is for schlepping around the city during the day/evening so I can carry the ten essentials (see my :what if?" series earlier this month).  The Eagle Creek Packable Day Bag fits the purpose very well and works out to about eleven and a half liters of space.  It appears to be quite durable despite the fact it weighs only six ounces and takes up very little space in your main pack when folded down into its own built-in pocket.  Now that I have my Scottevest, the day pack may see less use as it has been my experience in Germany that one surrenders a backpack for storage until the end of the tour in museums and castles/palaces.  Security concerns.  Although, it seems women need not surrender their purses.  Backpacks seem to be the scary item.  I can fit most of the stuff that I would carry in my day bag (including water) into my travel vest so there will be no pack to surrender.  A travel vest can be uncomfortable during hot weather though, so the day bag still has utility.
Eagle Creek Packable Duffel:  Although my travel bag goal is one bag and I carry a packable day bag for day trips, there is the remote possibility that I will throw caution to the winds and make some purchases that simply will not fit into my travel pack.  On the off-chance that will happen or that I will need an additional bag for some reason, I carry an Eagle Creek Packable Duffel as well.  It weighs in at eight ounces and gives me an additional fifty liters of storage if I need it.  If I don’t need it, very little space in the pack is taken as it also folds down into its own built-in pocket.  I can put this, the day bag, and my Kiva tote (to be reviewed soon) in my vest or pockets in case I need to make purchases while touring but I don't purchase much other than food for the next day or so.

Foldable Hiking Staff:  Hammacher Schlemer sells a great Packable Walking Stick that weighs around twelve ounces.  Collapsed down, it measures about ten inches long and about two inches wide.  Opened up, it measures about fifty inches in length.  Very ergonomic and useful in my opinion.  The top knob has a compass imbedded in it but the knob can be taken off so you can mount a camera on it converting the staff to a monopod.  There are measuring marks on the body of the staff so you can figure out the depth or height of things you encounter on your travels.  I became a fan of hiking staffs after reading books by Colin Fletcher.  They serve lots of functions:  balance, defense, re-enforcing a cadence when walking distances, and the fun of watching folks' faces when you fold it up or let it unfold in front of you by holding it at arms length and letting gravity and physics do the opening and segment placement for you.  It's also helpful assistance when you get to be my age and you've finally reached your destination after hours of sitting.  

Thermarest pad:  I am a fan of Thermarest pads, particularly the Neo-air Trekker, which takes little space and weighs considerably less in comparison to other Thermarest pads.  There is usually no need to pack one for international travel unless you have a military connection and are traveling Space A or anticipate weather-related airport delays/long layovers.  But it’s also useful for regional/local travel and you need a comfortable mattress to sleep or rest on when a bed’s not available.  My wife complains it sometimes has a “crinkly” sound but she doesn’t complain about the comfort.  The sound, when it occurs, does not bother me at all and I’m a light sleeper.  The only complaint I have about the mattress is that is does not have much in the way of insulation value during cold weather.  That can be fixed by putting it on top of the reflective side of an emergency mylar blanket so your body heat is reflected back up to you via the mattress in between.  Oh, and it has a nice feel to it, not like the standard plastic vinyl air mattress.   Age related arthritis causing back pain is mitigated a lot with this mattress.  I bought a Trekker large torso pad on sale which is great but I wish I had purchased the full-length Trekker instead.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Back safe and sound.  Will try to develop some posts for next week this weekend.  Waiting for guest articles. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sorry, no post today due to travel.  Will hopefully have something for ya'll Monday.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I saw Bigfoot in Trier!

Roman Ruins, Trier, Germany

Don't know what happened.  This was supposed to be posted on Thursday.  Mea culpa.

I stayed in Trier in early October 2012.  I had been there twenty years ago but only for a couple days.  I didn’t stray much from the walkplatz near the Porta Nigra back then.  Turns out I missed a lot.  The Porta Nigra is a big ol’ Roman gate of stone put together with no mortar or things we use today to keep it together.  I suspect that if I was an engineer I would be even more impressed.  It’s very popular with tourists and you get a nice view from the top level.  I didn’t have any hotel reservations when I arrived and looked at a traveler brochure at the train station.  I decided on Hotel Kessler given price and that it was in the walk zone.  I had difficulty finding this hotel but it was worth the effort. It is a budget hotel near to just about all the tourist sites. Good prices for the budget-minded. The free breakfast had variety and the coffee was good. The free wifi doesn't reach all the rooms all the time but you can go to the lobby or breakfast area to get online. The customer service was great--Philipp is probably the best hotel clerk/concierge in Trier. For those coming in from the main train station and wish to do the thirty minute walk, just go to the Porta Nigra (a main attraction) and follow the signs for the Karl Marx house. Hotel Kessler is just a few doors from the Karl Marx house.  For those budget-minded folks who want to buy some groceries for lunches, etc., there is a small neighborhood food store at the end of the block.

That evening, I walked to the main tourist area about fifteen minutes away and got a donar-kebab meal in the square across from the Ratskeller Café.  Trier has changed a lot since I was last there.  It’s more touristy and there is more graffiti although the graffiti doesn’t seem to be gang inspired.  There was a Turkish kabob place directly across from the train station a couple decades ago that I bought donar kabobs at—they tasted fantastic.  I recall the owner and I got along well and he brought his wife in to belly dance for customers.  I initially went over to the door of the restaurant right after I got off the train but the place looked too modern i.e. just like all the other kabob places I’d seen in Germany so I didn’t go in.  I should go there next time though—perhaps I was too judgmental or simply too tired after my train trip. 

Went to the Roman amphitheater complete with underground work area under the open area where the contests, etc. occurred the following day and paid three Euros to get in and take a look around.  A bit cool and breezy that day so I had to constantly put on and take off my rain jacket due to the weather around me.  Clothing actually does work as a microclimate in terms of physical comfort—a reminder to pack purposefully.  There is a Roman thermal bath being excavated within five minutes walk of the hotel.  It’s enclosed in a building and you can see the work going on from the outside or pay to go in. 

Near the walkplatz are two great churches (St. Peters Cathedral and Church of our Lady) which are a photographer’s delight.  Very popular.  There is a beggar that has a spot near the door—I bet he gets a decent income.  Twenty years ago, my wife and I went into the church and it just so happened that a choir was practicing in there.  The acoustics there are fantastic and consequently the musical performance (although just practice) was inspiring.  Nearby is a basilica (Konstantin Basilika) with garden and more Roman ruins such as the Kaiserthermen that can be toured providing you pay the entrance fee.  I saw a lot just from the outside and didn’t feel it necessary to go in.  Some folks like to mentally put themselves into the place and earlier time so I think it would be worth the entrance fee to go into these Roman ruins to experience them more than merely “been there, saw that” –just another reason I prefer to walk at my own time and volition instead of seeing stuff as part of a group tour.

Also not far from the hotel is the Moselle River where you can watch all kinds of watercraft travel there.  Some barges are actually the home of the operator and have all the amenities.  I saw one with a kid’s playground on it.  There is a great bicycle/walking path paralleling the river.  The piers part of one of the bridges there were actually built by the Romans and is used as a fundamental part of the bridge to this day.  There are buildings such as two old harbor cranes along the path that were used for trade in yesteryear.

I do plan to go back to Trier with my wife and friends sometime in the future.   Sure wish I was independently wealthy so I could go whenever I feel like it.

Hotel Kessler

Roman ampitheater

Inside church, no way to get it all in one photo--it's huge!