Prague's fake weed shops

Weed is not legal in Prague, but that doesn't stop grifters from ripping off naive tourists. In this episode of Honest Guide, you'll learn about these places (and also the fact that most absinthe sold in Prague is fake, too.) Read the rest

Crowdfunding a suitcase that becomes a closet

Every year or two, I embark on a round of crazy book-tour travel where I change cities every day for weeks on end (35 cities in 45 days on two continents in 2017!), and I'm on a perennial quest for a piece of luggage that is fuss-free: I want to stumble exhausted into my room, late at night, and in a few seconds access everything I need to go to sleep and then get out the next morning. Read the rest

A service to help airline passengers get compensated for lost bags, delays, cancellations and overbookings

Airhelp is a service that helps airline passengers in 30 countries file claims (for delays, lost bags, overbookings, and cancellations) structured to increase the likelihood of paying out; the bots have made $930m in successful claims to date, and the company behind it only collects a commission when a claim succeeds. Read the rest

Deaf couple say Delta agent "refused to communicate" with them, kicked them off flight

When Melissa Elmira Yingst and Socorro Garcia checked in for their flight at Detroit, they were told they'd get a seating assignment together. But at the departure gate, the request was denied—and they claim the gate agent would not communicate with them except by talking at them. Thing is, they're both deaf.

The gate agent rolled her eyes at us. Melissa asked for her to write. After a few moments, she finally wrote on a piece of paper and said, the flight is full and can’t book us together. I wanted to continue to communicate and decided to try and write on that same paper but instead of giving us the paper we asked for, she crumbled it in front of us and threw it in the trash.”

Yingst says she pleaded with the agent — who allegedly refused to give her name but whom they identify as “Felicia” — to write down her end of the conversation, arguing that she was “denying us our communication access” by not doing so.

Here's where they story diverges: one of the women says "Felicia" pushed her when she tried to retrieve the note. But "Felicia" claims she was assaulted. In any case, "Felicia" summoned airport security and the women were removed from the flight.

Delta is backing its gate agent, stating that the women were barred from the flight because Garcia went behind the gate desk and "pushed" the gate agent when trying to retrieving the crumpled up paper. The women deny this and say Delta falsely told the media it had reimbursed them. Read the rest

Great article about bothies, the remote shelters of the British uplands

Stephen Hiltner trudges miles through beautiful moors and mountains to get to the next bothy [New York Times].

But bothy culture, some longtime proponents fear, is imperiled by a generation unaccustomed to shrewdly guarded secrets. Map coordinates for the often hard-to-find dwellings, once dispersed only among hiking insiders, are now available openly on the internet. Popular hashtags have helped create something of a buzz on Instagram, where bothies are sometimes presented, misguidedly, as an alternative to Airbnb rentals. (The bothy code unequivocally prohibits the use of bothies for commercial purposes, and discourages their use by large groups.) A hugely popular and impressively researched guide, “The Scottish Bothy Bible,” published in 2017, lines shelves in stores throughout the U.K., the first of many bothy guides to achieve a kind of mainstream success. It, too, has increased foot traffic.

Some you could walk right by without noticing. (Photo crop: Stephen Hiltner/The New York Times) Read the rest

Freeway sign crushes car in terrifying dashcam footage

An Australian woman is in stable condition after a massive freeway sign toppled onto her car near Melbourne. The dashcam video, captured by the driver behind her, is absolutely terrifying.

(I wonder if this will fit in J.K. Simmons' insurance-claim wunderkammer.) Read the rest

Man with knife makes bomb threat at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport - suspect 'overpowered'

A man with knife made a bomb threat at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam today, and was 'overpowered' and arrested by Dutch police. Departures and Arrivals in the airport's hall 3 were evacuated, but have since reopened.

Here's what happened. Read the rest

Crowdfund campaign for a 500-kilometer walk across rural Japan

In January 2019, Peter Orosz plans to live broadcast his snowy trek across the Japanese island of Shikoku. He will also produce a printed field report.

The story is that last year I walked 2,700 miles from one end of Japan to the other, and now I will go back to walk the most interesting 300 miles in the winter, then write and print a large format Field Report about it. You will also be able to follow it live on YouTube and Instagram.

It costs $45 to support the expedition, for which you get a copy of the Field Report, an extra $20 will get your name in it as a Patron, and there’s also some cool hand-crafted stuff from my collaborators: a watercolor map, a book of essays on Japan by Alan Booth, an indigo-dyed towel. It’s shipping worldwide in Spring 2019.

Read the rest

The three coolest places in the world are Setouchi, Antarctica, and Pittsburgh

National Geographic compiled its list of the twenty coolest places on planet Earth in 2019. The top three: the small Japanese town of Setouchi, the continent of Antarctica, and the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Setouchi has the world's greatest small-town art scene and the coast looks like something from a movie about colonizing another worlds. Antarctica is the last place on Earth, a vast and unspoiled testament to nature's extremes. Pittsburgh has a giant Heinz ketchup bottle made of regular Heinz ketchup bottles. And it won World War II.

Here is the entire “cool” list: 1. Setouchi, Japan 2. Antarctica 3. Pittsburgh 4. Corsica 5. Cambodia 6. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 7. West Yorkshire, England 8. Hong Kong 9. Zimbabwe 10. Guyana 11. Oslo, Norway 12. Eritrea 13. KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 14. Bhutan 15. Dundee, Scotland 16. Uganda 17. Matera, Italy 18 Indonesia 19 Sibiu, Romania

Read the rest

The human and financial cost to summit Mount Everest is staggering

Everest isn't the most difficult mountain in the world to climb, but it is one of the most expensive. The individual cost of getting one's athletic ass to the top of the mountain range is between $40,000-$130,000. Most of this cheddar gets thrown at logistics. It takes a lot of money for a mountain outfitter to set up multiple camps at varying altitudes along the route to the top of the world. It takes considerably less money to hire the ludicrously underpaid Sherpa guides to set it all up and, if things go well, get their clients up the side of Everest and back down to base camp again in one piece. This in-depth video explains it all. Read the rest

Vardø, the witch capital of Norway

Chelsea G. Summers' beautiful article about a beatiful place recalls its ugly history: the murder of 91 "witches" in Vardø, Norway, part of a century-long persecution against which the Salem witch trials pale in comparison.

There’s no easy way to describe Vardø’s extreme, compelling weirdness. It’s hard to believe that Vardø once held a population of 5,000 in the many buildings that squat on concrete haunches around the harbor. Vardø’s hotels once burst with rich Russians who traded rubles for cod. The wharf once slapped with the sounds of fish being beheaded, gutted, skinned, salted and dried. The harbor once rang with the sounds of ships — at first small with sails, then larger with motors, then metal monsters — coming and going. Just 70 years ago, sailors swaggered in and out of Vardø’s bars and shops; just 25 years ago, more than 350 Sri Lankans staffed the fish processing plants. Now Vardø is a fraction of its former size, and its ghosts seems to hug you close.

Photo: Chelsea G. Summers Read the rest

My life on the road: watching life roll by from the corner of my eye

Two days of waiting in Casper, Wyoming, $1,200 and two new tires later, we were back on the road. Casper is a small city. It is one of Wyoming's most populated cities. It is a city flanked by mountains and, while we were being held captive by a blown out tire on a holiday weekend, a miserably cold, humid city.

It was a city we were happy to leave.

The man who taught me how to fight once told me that the only thing worse than getting punched is waiting to get punched. This holds true for many things in life. As my wife wheeled us back onto the Interstate, headed south, there was a tension in the air between us. We did not speak. We did little else but listen. Would the rest of our tires prove sound? Was there any indication that they might blow like one of our outer duelies had? When the next blow-out happens would it be one of our steer-tires? How fucked or dead would we be? The answer to this last question: pretty fucked and, depending on the speed we'd be traveling at when the blow-out hit, pretty dead.

Both of us were wondering these things. Neither of us talked about it until after we had stopped for the night.

Long distance trips can be full of new foods and interesting people that make for fond memories. More often, you're left to contend with hours of a ribbon of road cut through the plains mountains and dead towns that lost their vibrance years before you were born. Read the rest

My life on the road: stranded in Wyoming

Few things can fuck an RV up worse than a frozen water system. Grey, black and potable water tanks, water pumps and the delicate tubing that run through the undercarriage and into the living area of a motorhome don't do well when exposed to subzero temperatures. Some RVs, like ours, come with blowers that force warm air from the furnace into the undercarriage. Others, like our old rig, have systems that draw power from the chassis battery to keep the tanks heated and the liquid inside of them, well, liquid.

We started our first day headed south at -4° Celsius. We assumed that we'd be able to make it to Lethbridge, Alberta, a few hours south of Calgary. The overnight temperature would dip to -10° there. Fading headlights and the encroaching dark forced to a halt, short of our goal, in Claresholm. There, the overnight temperature dipped to -17°.

We knew that we could weather the weather in Lethbridge. Claresholm, cold as it was, would have been a test we weren't prepared to sit for. Fortunately, we were able to find a hotel. Even more fortunate was the fact that we'd winterized our RV well before the first cold. Our tanks were drained dry. Our lines were wetted with anti-freeze. For the first three days of our trip south, we traveled without any water, save what we brought with us in bottles. We used it to flush our toilet, brush our teeth, make coffee and wash. On the end of the third night, we felt it warm enough to risk de-winterizing the RV. Read the rest

My Life on the Road: Headed to Texas - chicken and booze in Bozeman

We left Claresholm after eating a continental breakfast of terrible coffee and decent muffins. The hotel’s owner chatted lazily with us as we noshed. He had been a manager of Woolworth's department stores, from Toronto, Ontario to Terrence, British Columbia. He served the chain loyally for decades of his life, never questioning when they sent him north, east or west. They fired him after 27 years of service. He’d become redundant.

I told him that I remembered eating grilled cheese sandwiches at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where I grew up. There was pride in his voice as he told me that, before McDonald's came along, the department store’s lunch counters were the biggest restaurant chain in the world.

The sun was high for it being so early in the day. We heated the RV’s engine for a half hour before wheeling south.

It’s a strange time to write for a living. Where normally I expect to raise an eyebrow when I tell folks what I do, my vocation of late has roused opinions and suspicions. I wasn’t sure if I would stand up to questioning at the border. I needn’t have worried: the border guard was more concerned about where we were going, how long we’d be there and whether we had any contraband onboard. In her rear view mirror, my wife saw our border guard staggering through a pee-pee dance from her booth to the border patrol facility a few feet away as we drove off.

Montana.

The mountains are different here than they are in Alberta. Read the rest

In-flight "brawl" between American Airlines stewards leads to lawsuit

An American Airlines steward is suing the airline, claiming that a colleague assaulted her during a flight and that it refused to address her complaints. A lawyer representing the airline, as quoted by USA Today, says that she had it coming: it is "not liable because Plaintiff caused or contributed to cause the harm".

An American Airlines flight attendant who says she was dragged down the aisle by her scarf by a fellow crew member has sued the Dallas-based carrier for failing to investigate the July 2016 brawl or take actions to ensure her safety.

In her lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court and obtained by The Dallas Morning News, Kathy Ida Wolfe says another flight attendant, Laura Powers, "maliciously dug her fingernails into my arm, and slammed the door of a beverage cart on my arm" and later "grabbed my scarf, choking me, and dragged me in the aisle and in front of the passengers."

Alas, there's no video of the "brawl." Dallas News has more:

Wolfe, of Irving, said she followed American's procedures by reporting the attack to the captain, other flight attendants and the flight service manager.

"I also reported the assault and battery to legal authorities after American Airlines failed to investigate and/or take action to ensure my safety," she said in the lawsuit, which was initially filed in June in Tarrant County district court.

Read the rest

My Life on the Road: Headed for Texas, crazy cold in Claresholm

With my wife's gig in north central Alberta spinning down for another year and the cold charging hard at us like a bull moose in rut, it's once again time for us to head south. This year, thanks to the two weeks it took me to replace a lost passport, we started off later than we would have liked.

***

We left Calgary late in the day. No matter how much lead up we have, there always seems to be a few last things to do. Saying goodbye. Picking up snacks for the road. Double checking our rig's engine, air bags, air brakes, tires and all else. Even after receiving my passport last Friday, we waited until today--Wednesday. The weather was too coarse to risk in the rig.

We aimed at Lethbridge as a first night target. Not far, but out of Calgary and within reach of the border early tomorrow morning. As the dusk settled in, we noted that our headlights were not up to the task of leading us. The bulbs would need to be replaced. But not tonight. We made for Claresholm: a highway pass-through town on the road south. By the time we pulled off for the evening, it had already hit -10. We lurked through town, the size of a semi truck with our Jeep in tow, searching for a dark corner of asphalt to call ours for the night. On with the generator. On with the furnace to warm our dog and our bones. Read the rest

This mobile workstation is my new favorite travel companion

One of the big problems I've had with taking long drives, anywhere, has been that I'm forced into unproductive time when I should be working. This isn't a problem when I'm going on vacation. But here's the thing: I seldom take a vacation. As I'm self-employed, there's no such thing as vacation pay in my world. When I stop writing, the money stops coming in. Working on the road is possible--all I have to do is tether my laptop to my iPhone and I'm in business.

So long as I can keep my laptop, you know, in my lap.

Maintaining a stable platform to work on while my wife wheels us across the continent has proven difficult. I've tried lap desks, balancing my computer on a backpack, you name it. My computer always slides around, making it damn near impossible to type. What's more, a neck injury that I sustained eons ago makes it painful for me to tilt my head down for any length of time. This combination of poor conditions has forced me, up until now, to twiddle my thumbs for hours at a time, working only once we've come to a stop for the day.

However, I think that I may finally have figured it out.

RAM Mounts makes a wide variety of mobile work solutions to keep nerd stuff in one place while you're driving along. Cops use RAM Mount gear in their cruisers to keep their laptop secure. Their in-vehicle smartphone and tablet stands are, arguably, among the best out there. Read the rest

More posts