Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Archive for November, 2011

Curtailing the World’s Most Popular Pastime Is Not Politically Popular

posted: November 27th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Traveling “THE 5,”  ” THE 10″ and  “THE 210″  in northwest California this past week has driven home the meaning of overpopulation in a way no place else in America has ever done.  From the moment we entered the northern part of this the nation’s second largest state this old country boy from Montana (4th largest state but with a population less than 1M) encountered driving conditions that exceeded those manifesting themselves from our mistake of several years ago.  At the time, we took a wrong turn and then found ourselves pulling our Airstream around Westmorland Circle in Washington D.C. That was bad (also see Vehicular Madness), but here in Northern California it was bumper to bumper not just for an hour or two but for several days.

Centers of Insanity

For two entire days we’ve encountered towns such as Modesto, population 202,747; Fresno, population 494,665; (fifth-largest in California); Delano, 38,824 (just a dot on map); Bakersfield, 347,483 (“room for expansion”); and Adelanto, 31,765 (“up from 18,1380 in the year 2,000”).


Eighty miles an hour on THE 10

But the worst of all these charming towns was San Bernardino, 2,015,355. This city should castrate its road engineers.  Roads were constructed of concrete blocks and all buckled like tectonic plates actively creating mountains. Miles of New Jersey barricades extended to the edge of most areas under construction and traffic did not slow.  One huge trucker roared past us, squeezing us between him and those damn concrete barricades.  Yet another trucker blasted by then applied his Jake breaks, presumably because a small VW was blocking his path – and he wanted to terrify anyone in his way.

Digitus Impudicus

Despite it all, most folks who passed us — as we crept along pulling our Airstream — waved, though it was a strange wave lacking most all fingers — save one.  We waved back, often with great gusto.

The Vernacular

When we finally arrived in Indio, our destination for the night, the lady at the RV park said she understood the frustration. “The Five and those other highways,” she said, may be the nation’s most dangerous road section.”  (In California, all highways rise to such importance that they require the article “The.” The Five; The 210; The Ten — and so on.  In usage a native Californian might say: “Take The 210 to The Five, then stay dedicated… Such is the vernacular.)

Gated RV Park

The RV park where we’re now parked goes by the name of Shadow Hills and seemed to be ideally located to park our Airstream for a Thanksgiving visit to L.A. (population 9,862,049 in July 2008) where Janie’s brother and family live.  The park provides gated security and was a good safe place  to leave our Airstream while we enjoyed a three-day family get together.


Sad to say, but L.A.'s Jet Propulsion Lab is now reducing staff and may have been the one hope for an overpopulated planet, through space exploration -- and ultimate habitation..


Janie’s brother is a professor at USC and despite his usage of the vernacular, I’ve always been impressed. He’s also chairman of the Classics department and just returned from a fellowship at Princeton, but even more impressive to this ‘Ole Montana country boy: he likes to hike and he generally agrees with my politics.)

World’s Most Popular Pastime

Tomorrow Janie and I will return to Shadow Hills, hook up our trailer, and complete the drive to Anza Borrego, which means we have about four hours of driving left.  Once we’re south of Indio these massive populations centers will drop dramatically, but these insane centers of mankind will remain despite my prayers, and anyone who wants proof that 7 billion (official tally about 30 days ago) earthlings may be too much for planet earth to sustain need only drive through Bakersfield, Delano…  San Bernardino.  They’re really not isolated enclaves, but ones that virtually sprawl, one spilling over and onto the other.

Many agree that the world’s biggest problem is overpopulation, but just try and find a politician who will listen.  After all, who would try and curtail the world’s most popular pastime.





*Global Warming


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“Unending” Travel Travails & Health Issues Restore Faith in Humanity

posted: November 20th, 2011 | by:Bert


The beauty of fall helps minimize Airstream aches

©Bert Gildart: For the past ten days we’ve been in Eugene, Oregon, contending with  problems that seemed to just keep mounting.  Resolution, however,  has restored our faith in humanity.

Last month we discovered that the front panel on our new Classic Airstream was developing “waves.” At first Airstream at the Jackson factory in Ohio said it was our fault because we applied too much pressure with our Hensley Hitch to the “A” Frame of our Airstream. Baloney, we said, and  as the facts begin to emerge the factory center relented, eventually offering to provide a panel.  Then George Sutton of Sutton RV in Eugene offered to provide 1/3 of the labor still leaving me with a $500 bill.  The item was warranted, but if part of the blame was mine, then I thought the 1/3 split was fair. (More on this in a moment!)

But about the same time that we discovered problems with the pride and joy of our travel lives we were also trying to close on the sale of a rental house we owned.   All went well until the last week when the buyers began to vacillate.  Eventually we closed but money matters are never easy, especially when legal considerations must be finalized from the road.

Compounding the above were unexpected health concerns, and when we got to Oregon Janie’s doctor called saying the reading on the biopsy of a small growth showed melanoma.  Two days later he again called saying that his diagnosis was correct but that the imperatives were not so urgent because growth was “in situ.” Nevertheless, he said the growth must be removed, meaning we either had to fly back home — or find a board-certified dermatologist while on the road.  That may seem easy, but it required half a dozen calls over the period of several days before a doctor in Salem, Oregon, agreed to take on a new out-of-state patient.


Though Dr. Goodenberger’s schedule was overflowing he nevertheless took Janie in for consultation, and then immediately after for a 20-minute surgical procedure.  He told her he didn’t want her driving around having to try and find another doctor when so many doctors  might be on a Thanksgiving vacation.  God bless that man, for my bride is now cancer free and good to go!

Nevertheless, all these problems seemed to compound themselves, something stress always seems do. Coincident with all the above my laptop computer crashed while I was trying to complete a deadline on a story, I spilled coffee on the rug of  our new Airstream; I left my credit card at a filling station, and then when American Express said they’d overnight me a new card I gave them the wrong address…

A loose propane bottle I’d placed in the back of the truck to be filled slipped and broke one of the windows in our topper. Crap;  oh, double damn crap! (I’m sure that’s what I said.)

That brings us up to yesterday, and because Mr. Sutton had initially offered to pay 1/3 of the problem, and because his service department had provided us with such great service, even allowing Janie and me to camp in our Airstream in their lot as repairs were being made, Janie and I bought two huge pies from SHARI’S for all those good folks (Thanks, Josh, Brett, Noah, Thom, the tall bicycle rider, and others whose names I didn’t get).


Fall photography around Eugene provides escape from travel travails


We bought our favorites pies, a peach and an apple, and set them out on their table.  I was glad because Sutton’s service manager Thom Locke said George had, in fact, offered to cover my share of the repairs.  I’m hoping Mr. Sutton can reclaim from the Airstream factory some of what he provided. Whatever, I’m getting to know George and contend he was simply adding kindness to kindness. Regardless,  Janie’s doctor and the people at Suttons have all restored our faith in humanity and that’s a challenge, particular when on the road and when  life can at times seem so impersonal.

We’ll certainly be back.  And now, with a new credit card, a computer (I’m using Janie’s) that will soon be returned, and with our Airstream and health issues resolved – we’re off for another extended trip that we hope will soon be providing us with adventures equivalent to past adventures. Here are a few links to some of those travels: Nova Scotia, Airstreams and Kayaks, World Eskimo Indian Olympics, Dry Tortugas, Natchez Trace.




*When It Snows in the Great Smokey Mountains



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Tamaracks — The Deciduous Conifer That Can Turn Heads

posted: November 7th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: As we departed Montana two days ago, driving over Lookout Pass, the tamarack trees glowed in a way one seldom ever sees.  The species holds the distinction of being the only coniferous tree that sheds its needles.  This aspect of their biology creates a beauty shared by no other North American conifer.


For a few weeks each fall tamaracks cover the hill sides with their evanescent light, appearing for awhile like huge golden torches.


Properly described, the species is a deciduous conifer and in the fall, generally around November, needles of the tamarack turn to a rich yellow and then stay that way for several weeks.  But as the season progresses, the  gold coloration gives way to rich brown.  Eventually, virtually all the needles are excised from the tree and then they stand barren, waiting for spring when the cycle repeats itself.

But right now few species can claim more beauty.  True, the New England states have maples and birch that punctuate the landscape with their yellows and reds and the south its profusion rich berries, but I maintain that few settings can compare with Montana when tamaracks turn gold and when they in turn are back dropped with a fresh dusting of snow.

That’s the way it was the other day as we passed over Lookout Pass. The beauty of the scene prompted many to pull to the side of the highway for a lingering look, suggesting that some, at least, are still awed by the basic transformations of nature.





*Sheep Wear Biographies on Their Horns




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Montana’s Conrad Mansion Rendered with HDR

posted: November 6th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: At the moment we are camped in a KOA just outside of Spokane.  We were bound for Sutton RV where we’re scheduled to have a few repairs made to our RV all covered by the warranty that came with our new Airstream.

Those who have followed will recall we had to purchase a new RV because of the extensive filiform corrosion sustained last winter as we traveled over Monida Pass.  From Suttons we will be heading to the warmth of the desert.Just prior to leaving I visited the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell to create images of one of Montana’s wealthiest families, the Conrads.

Mansion2 Conrad Mansion Mansion4

Because flash is not allowed in the mansion, I had visited with friends from Boise who are experts on the use of a technique called HDR, standing for “high dynamic resolution.”

The technique requires the use of a tripod and the bracketing of exposures of the same setting.  Typically, anywhere from three to six or more images are recorded of the same exact setting, then using a program such as Photomatrix, the images are superimposed one on the other – then merged.


HDR tends to create exaggerated colors; the trick is to control that tendency.


The theory is that in the course of taking multiple images one will have created the proper exposure for all elements in the scene ranging from the most extreme highlights to the densest shadows. This was my first attempt, but with lots of help from Todd and Jack (my companions on the recent trip to Wildhorse) I think I have made a good first start.  I’ll work on reducing some of the extreme colors, but have included them here because they show colors that might be useful in creating “Photo Art.”


Bedroom once used by Theodore Roosevelt and then by cowboy artist Charles M. Russell.


Not so incidentally, the image of the bedroom shows the bed and room in which both Theodore Roosevelt and Charles M. Russell stayed while visiting the Conrads.  Obviously these are Christmas scenes and hopefully my images have captured all the wonderful decorations staff at the mansion have displayed for the Christmas season. They helped me with ideas and with detailed explanations of the mansion’s history, and several of the images will most certainly be used in our book Montana Icons.  Glacier Icons will be in the warehouse of Globe Pequot December 15th and ready at that time for nation-wide distribution.



*Athabascan Fiddle Festival


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