Illinois - Chicago

by Kimp 6. June 2013 22:47
Chicago can be described by two adjectives; crowded and windy. Usually early June is in the mid 70's, but in June of 2013 it was in the low 60's and very windy. Pretty cold day, colder by night. Something a little warmer than a spring jacket would have been nice to have brought with me.

The metropolitan area of Chicago contains about 10 million people and the interstates are like parking lots most of the day, afternoon, night, and weekend. I think the average Chicagoan spends about half of their life in their automobile, just watching life go by. The more people there are in an area, the higher the real estate prices, the higher the real estate prices, the more money vendor's need to charge for goods to pay for the real estate. And so and so, all of the way down the money chain. Basically, when you are a visitor, everything is going to seem fairly expensive.

Their metro system is a little confusing in places. Some of the lines share the same set of tracks in areas, like the purple and the red line. The purple line is kind of an express train that only stops at a few of the red line stops when it is on the red tracks. However, sometimes the driver dude forgets to change the color sign on the train, so you get on the one marked red line and really its a purple line train or vice versa. Also all of the metro lines appear to converge on the historic downtown area called the loop. The Loop is like four sets of elevated metro tracks and go in a loop, creating a lots of congestion and confusion. You often end up going through the down town, even if neither of your end points are anywhere near it. Plus changing trains at a stop in the loop area, creates another 8 layers of confusion (which train? Which direction? Did I get on the right train, in the right direction?). There are so many stops that the metro doesn't appear to be any faster then driving. Metro stops are small and trains are small for the size of the crowds.

Chicago has an interesting history. It started from very humble beginnings. Illinois decided to build a canal to connect the Chicago river with the Mississippi and land speculator's started buying up lots of land, expecting Chicago to become a major transportation hub, which it did. First via river barge, then via railroad. Big job market brought in lots of immigrants and Chicago has grow exponentially every since. Lots of growth and immigration meant it was easy for organized crime to move in. From several stories, that I was told be locals. It appears that their are still struggles within the city. The most prevalent seemed to  center around politicians ,who appear (to the layman), to often put unqualified people in important money controlling positions. One example is Millennium park (built 15 years ago), which cost nearly 5 times its estimate. Many think that was due to lots of changes and cost overruns, that were approved, by the government overseer's of the project.

At one time, the downtown was all wooden structures. When the big fire of 1833, flattened the entire business district, steel was just starting to be recognized as a building material. The 1st skyscraper was built in Chicago. Many more quickly followed on the nice clean slate left by the fire. A construction model that continues to this day.

Chicago buildings are all huge in scale. It's probably one of the most dense areas in the US. Buildings are both very tall, and very wide. Judging distance in the downtown area is even more deceiving then judging distance in Las Vegas. It looks like a particular building is only like a five minute walk away. Twenty minutes later I get there. The only reason there's space between some buildings, is because the Chicago river is creating that space. The banks of the Chicago river were all consumed by buildings, making it look more like a canal then a river. Downtown, I got about 30 minutes of direct sunlight each day (on the few days that there aren't any clouds), 15 minutes each side of noon. The rest of the time, I was in the shade of a building.
The Chicago Blues Festival was in town while we were there. They set up in the beautiful millennium park, which is the social hub of Chicago. I assumed that the festival would be open until at least midnight, so Sam and I didn't go there until around 9:00 P.M., just in time to see them shutting it down for the night (Say what, this is a major festival and it's only 9 P.M.). Maybe, Chicagoan's, leave early, because the drive home takes three hours. I've been to lots of festivals and have never seen one close so early.

When you see a dude playing a harmonica, with his hands cupped around both the harmonica, and a microphone, that's Chicago Blues. Usually accompanied by electric instruments with the volume turned up as well. It only comes in one flavor, "Loud, Nasty and Sweaty.". Played slow or fast, it's always full of energy. Junior Wells, Muddy Water's, Jame's Cotton, Buddy Guy all come quickly to mind.

No trip to Chicago is complete without going to a game at Wriggley's field. Wriggley started out as a soap company. Year's ago, when you bought a container of soap, there was always a prize inside of it. I can remember my mom getting a whole set of towels (one at a time), included with the laundry soap that she bought. Wriggley put gum inside of one of their products, as a prize. When lots of people started writing them and asking where they could buy the gum on its own, because they loved the taste, Wriggley decided to change business models. Wriggley field retains it's 1914 charm and is one of the most iconic stadiums in baseball. When built it was named Weeghman Park, but was renamed to Wriggley Field in honor of the owner of the Chicago Cub's. If you adjusted the original cost to today's dollars it would cost around $5M to built Wriggley field from nothing. However, the politicians just approved a $500M stadium renovation (Say what?!? 100x's the adjusted original cost). Maybe the Chicago laymen have a point when they complain about their politically appointed project overseer's.



Missouri - Hannibal

by Kimp 4. June 2013 22:10
Mark Twain's History:
Mark's Twain's real name was Samuel Clemons. Sam's father and mother started out as wealthy Virginia land owners who had inherited 6 slaves. In those day's, anybody who owned land in Virginia was wealthy.
The Clemon's moved from town to town, through Tennessee and Missouri. The father was trying to create more wealth, but made one poor decision after another, until they were flat broke and barely making ends meet. Tom remembered when they had a few slaves, before they were all sold off to make ends meet.
Tom was born in Florida Missouri (near Hannibal). His dad had a local law practice and general store there. When Tom was 4 years old, the store failed (This was the 5th store that his father owned, that failed) and they moved to Hannibal, a port town on the Mississippi river, where this father opened up a successful law practice. His father would be elected as the county Judge there. When Tom was 11, his father died of pneumonia. Tom quit school to make money to help his mother make ends meet. He worked for his brother, as a typesetter, at his brothers (Orion's) newspaper in Hannibal. Tom would go on to write a few articles and make some humorous sketches for this brothers paper.

When Tom was 18, he left home and traveled quite a bit. He ended up working for newspapers in four very large US cities.

Once, he was on a trip to New Orleans down the Mississippi, when he talked to one of the river boat Pilots. His dream when he was a child, was to become a riverboat Captain on the Mississippi river. When he found out that a Mississippi riverboat pilot made a lot more money then a captain, he changed this plans. A captain runs a ship and a pilot is the person who steers the ship. Since the Mississippi is difficult to navigate and conditions often change, piloting pays a lot more. Tom studied for two years before obtaining his riverboat pilot's license. This is where he picked up the pen name "Mark Twain" that we would use later in life. To measure the depth of water in the old days, they used a rope with a weight tied to it. Every fathom (6 feet) that rope would have a mark on it. When a riverboat was in shallow water, someone had to monitor the depth rope. Twain means two, so when the 2nd mark was reached (12 feet of water were under the boat), the depth watch would yell "Mark Twain". Hearing "Mark Twain", the captain knew he was out of the shallow water, and could floor it once again.

The civil war broke out six years later. Riverboat travel was cut to a minimum and Tom had to find another line of work. He enlisted as a confederate soldier in Missouri, but quit two weeks later and moved to Nevada to take up mining. That failed and in 1865 he went back to Newpaper writing out west, which is where he started using his Pen Name. He gained some popularity and was sent as a reporter to Hawaii. His travel reporting became very popular and another newspaper sponsored him on a trip of the Mediterranean.

When he got back, he meet his future wife, married and moved to Hartford Connecticut where he would wrote many of the novels that he is now know for. He became quite wealthy from this authorship.

Sam's downfall was that he was amazed by technology and invested heavily, over a 14 year period, in a typesetting machine that was riddled with problems. It failed when a different technology, that worked. That left Sam in bankruptcy.

So he started lecturing and touring, which helped him financially recover.
Master Story Teller:
One of the highlights for me was listening to a local African American master story teller named Gladys Caines Coggswell, who recited "A True Story Told Word for Word as I Heard It". One of Mark Twain's story's about being a part of a slave family that was split up and sold. She was very good and she could belt out a good "a cappella" gospel tune as well. Here she is singing an original composition about a three eyed cat
My History:
I was on a subway train in Boston around 1978 when I meet a colorful looking dude who was holding some very old rusty chains in his hands. He really stuck out from the crowd, but as he sat down next to me, I tried not to look at him at all. I thought maybe if I looked at him, and he thought I was looking at him funny, he might bash me in the head with those chains. I lived on the border of the roughest section of Boston and saw a lot of crazy people and events in my time there. 
As the train started to move, he told me that he had just acquired them and asked me if I knew what they were.
I said, "Those look like some very old rusty chains.", in a nonchalant like manner.
He says, "These ain't just any old chains... These er SLAVE CHAINS!!!"
Figuring he was a little off of his rocker, and hoping he wasn't looking for a new white boy slave, I said, "How may slaves do you own?"
"NO!!! I DON'T OWN ANY SLAVES!!! These belonged to my GRANDDADDY's, GRANDDADDY's, GRANDDADDY who was enslaved in them, and they were passed down to my GRANDDADDY's, GRANDDADDY, who was enslaved in them and then to my GRANDDADDY who was enslaved in em."

"Here", as he sticks them in my hands, "try to break 'em. <pause> YOU can't break 'em!!! <pause> I tried and tried and tried and tried, umph!!! and I couln't break 'em, umph!!! My GRANDDADDY's, GRANDDADDY's, GRANDDADDY tried to break 'em umph!!! and he couldn't break em... umph!!! umph!!! umph!!!
"Sir, here's your chains back. This is my stop. I sure am sorry that many of your ancestors were treated so heinously and I hope that never, ever happens to anyone in your family again."
The next day, I was telling this story to one of my professors and he says, "Oh yea, I know that dude. He's Brother Blue. He has a Phd in story telling and teaches at Harvard.". After that  I was thinking. Hmmm, I wonder why tomorrows best and brightest businessmen and lawyers need to take a course in expert storytelling???
His real name was Dr. Hugh Hill, but he adopted the moniker of "Brother Blue", cause when he was growing up, he always told stories to his younger mentally disabled brother, who pronounced "Hugh", with a sound similar to "Blue".    
Brother Blue went on to to be the official story teller for both Boston and Cambridge. I tried to look him up when I was in Boston, but he had died just a few years ago.
This is brother blue on utube:



Missouri - St Louis

by Kimp 3. June 2013 04:41

Photo Blog

My son Sam said that he really liked the feel of St. Louis, Missouri. When a 13 year old makes a comment like that, it means it feels safe, comfortable, and inviting. Before he even said that, I was thinking the exact same thing. Its a special kind of feeling that doesn't come around very often.
East St. Louis is across the Mississippi river, in Illinois and I've heard that it has a completely different feel to it. But, we didn't venture over onto that side to find out.
When I was young I really liked the St. Louis Cardinal's baseball team. They were a powerhouse back in the late 1960's. They are usually thought of as the best franchise throughout all of National League history and also the second best franchise throughout all of baseball history (behind the New York Yankees). The card's have been a powerhouse for the last few years and were in 1st place in the National league this year when we saw them play the Arizona Diamondbacks, who at that time, were in 2nd place in the National League for the year. Love the new retro Busch stadium. A great feel to it as well. Card's fans are like a big family.
I have a great friend named Aaron who hung out with us while we were there. I hadn't seen Aaron in a few years, but Aaron and I have been through a lot of very similar and difficult, life experiences.  I can relate with Aaron more then anyone else that I know. In my opinion, his situation is a lot more difficult then mine and I think he has handled his a lot better than I have, so I have a lot of admiration for him as well. Aaron is one of the few people I know, who, like myself, doesn't mind solo travel,  he has been a lot of places that I haven't. Neither he, nor I have hesitated to rent an apartment in a Getto and sleep comfortably on the floor when money was tight.  When I go to a 3rd world country, it's usually with Aaron. Two guys who really like to solo travel can cover a lot of very interesting ground in a very short time. We've been a few places, not to many white faces have been. We both don't have much fear and just kind of feed off of each other.
I don't know if Aaron knew it, but he was there for me in one of my darkest years, and helped me deal with a lot of the things that I was going through. He's a big guy, with a big heart, a very good father, very kind to kids, and a great person to hang out with. He's like a giant sacrificial anode. If he had a heart of gold, he'd give it all away. Aaron has another thing that I don't. He has a way with the ladies as well...
St Louis was already a good sized city before President Jefferson acquired it from the French, but now it has a huge and very close knit Italian sector that is so big, it's just called the hill. It's an awesome place to visit.
The blues made their way up the Mississippi from New Orleans into St. Louis. When they got there, they found a much more upbeat and cheerful sound. It's a blues twist to ragtime and usually has a really nice dance beat to it. Very popular in the 1930's with musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Glenn Miller. You can still hear it all over the city.
Forest Park in St. Louis is the nicest city park I've ever seen. The Museums and Zoo are free, the park is huge, it has a golf course, zillions of bikes, miles of bike path's and boat's for rent. Great place. Take a look at the pictures.
Since I had Sam with me, I didn't go seeking my thrill on Blueberry Hill, but I'm sure that there are still lots of thrills up there. However, there was a nice looking woman flirting with me at the City Museum in St. Louis. The city museum is an old 10 story warehouse that's been turned into a giant playground. Kid's and adults by day and after 9 p.m., adults only. Sam and I were really enjoying ourselves when I noticed three women, obviously life long friends, who were trying to take a picture of themselves. I offered to take their picture for them, but when they handed me their IPhone, the camera was still turned towards the photo taker. So, as I am about to take the picture, I see my ugly mug in the display. I handed it back to the owner and asked her to switch the camera, because I was sure they didn't want my picture. That's when the cute one the right says, "Oh! , I want your picture!", in a very excited tone. I just smiled, commenced to taking their picture, then handed the owner the phone, and left. As we were walking away, Sam wanted to know why I didn't go for it... 
Cause there's a lot more to St. Louis then great baseball, fun playgrounds, upbeat emotional music and cute women.  They also have authentic St Louis style Pizza. My favorite pizza. That's the round, very thin and crispy unleavened crust pizza, that is cut in small squares. Sam and I devoured a whole large one with extra provel cheese (a mixture of provolone, swiss and white cheedar) and pepperoni, in no time at all. It just completely disappeared right before our eyes. 



Missouri - Branson

by Kimp 1. June 2013 02:27

Photo Blog


One of the places Sam (my son) and I visited on Summer Vacation.
The first thing that you need to learn about Missouri is how to properly pronounce it.
It's not Mizz-er-ee, it's Mizz-er-ahhh. ?????
The second thing to learn about Missouri is that they were really confused during the Civil War. They had two state governments at the same time and sent delegates to both union and confederate congresses. They also had both sides claiming that Missouri was on their side. Sounds petty smart to me. They got funding from both sides, did whatever they wanted, and couldn't possibly lose.
My Dad always claimed to be from Missouri (the show me state), because he needed to be shown something, before he would believe it. In his words, "I'm from Missouri, you're going to need to show me that before I believe it!!!"
Ozark Mountains:
The Ozark Mountains are a place where the people from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and parts of Texas have visited for a very long time. In 1958 the town of Branson built a Dam across the White river that created a large man made lake named Table Rock Lake, near Branson.  Woods, mountains and a big body of water is red neck awesomeness. God obviously put that right at the top of red neck territory for a their pleasure. Red neck's have flocked to Table Rock Lake to vacation, ever since.

A worthless factoid about the Ozark Mountains is that they aren't really mountains. It's a plateau (say what?!?). Mountains are pushed up from the ground, and these were formed by erosion of land that was, at one time, a high plateau. You can tell, because if you pick any random peak and climb to the top of it, all of the other peaks that you can see, are at the same height. Similar to a canyon, but in a canyon a river created the erosion. These pseudo-mountains are nice, but not as scenic as real mountains in my opinion.

Branson History:
With all of the people vacationing and fishing in Branson, after Table Rock Damn was built. The Mabe brothers (Jim, Lyle, Bill & Bob) created a variety show called the BaldKnobbers (the name of an old Ozarks vigilante group), in a downtown Branson Theatre. Pictures I have seen of the old show, looked exactly like Hee-Haw in my opinion. In 1960 a nice outdoor Theatre named the Old Mill Theatre was built 10 miles away in the hills. They ran a very popular show based on a 1907 Novel "The Shepherd of the Hills", set in the Ozarks. Later this area came to be called "The Shepherd of the Hills".  In 1962, Paul Henning was on a boy scout trip in Branson and came up with the idea for the Beverly Hill Billy's television series. In 1968 Lloyd and Bessie Mae Presley (No relation to Elvis) bought 40 acres on a deserted asphalt road half way between Branson and the Old Mill Theater, built a theater there and created "Presley's Country Jubliee". One year later the BaldKnobbers built a theatre out that way and moved their show to it. All of the above is still going strong. The Presley mansion compound is in a valley, just behind their theatre.
That started the formation of Branson's strip (Rt 76). In 1983, Roy Clark built a Theater on the strip and started cycling celebrities through it. That's when Branson really took off.

As the gangster's were building Vegas to be Sin City. The red necks were building Branson to be Family City.

Today there are over 50 Theatre's with more crystal clean variety then you'll find anywhere. Along with the Theatres are a few museums, a decent sized water park, a decent sized go-cart park, lots of inexpensive places to eat and lots of classic red neck shopping.
I found the hotels to be priced reasonably and there are lots of inexpensive places to eat as well. The entertainment on the other hand was quite overpriced in my opinion, although, I did have great seats to some high quality productions. The prices when I visited may have been due to high production costs and low volume of visitor's during the recession.
Titanic museum:
The Titanic museum was outrageously priced. I've paid 1/4 of that to visit some of the world's best museums and its quality was sparse. There are not many Titanic artifacts (it's several miles under water), so they were capitalizing on a few artifacts from survivor's and some survivor stories. One of the rooms was made to look like it was out on the titanic deck and it was inside of a freezer to make it extra cold. That was a nice touch, but I can get the same effect from walking in a meat freezer. For me, I want to settle out of court for 3/4's of my money back.
Water Park:
Way overpriced if you are only going to visit one day (like we did), but maybe worth it if you get a multi-day pass and it's really hot out. In early June the water was still Mountain water cold. Looked like they had a nice wave pool, so Sam and I jetted over there first thing. Their was a count down sign that stated "4 Min. 28 Sec.'s until the waves start", and there was already a decent wave action in the pool. I thought, sweet, I'll bet this is going to be like one of those Red Neck wave pools, where it counts down to zero, then a big explosion blows the top off of the wave generator house and a giant red neck title wave comes out, draining the entire pool and washing away all of the women soaking up the sun on the loungers at the end of the pool. As it nears 0, I brace myself for impact, and, ..., ..., ..., nothing happens. I look around to see if anyone is trying to troubleshoot the problem when I realize the wave action has completely stopped. I look up and the count down timer and its back at "4 Min. 22 Sec's until the waves start." 5 seconds later the same lame wave action that was there when we arrived started back up again. Yep, this is a real red neck operation, sure enough. After that, we hit most of the water slides and left after about 2 hours. Some of the slides were nice.
If you get RFD-TV (Rural Free Delivery) out of Omaha Nebraska on cable, then you can watch many of Branson top act's on TV.
The HayGood's show:
I choose this show because it appeals to the teenage crowd and I thought Sam might enjoy it.  
The HayGood's are a large musically inclined family from Boerne, Texas, who traveled the fair circuit performing, then settled in Branson about 20 years ago, when their kid's were still quite young.  Their show reminded me of the Donnie and Marie Osmond show (a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll), only with all of the Osmond brothers as well. Out of something like 10 kid's, there were 5 brothers and 1 sister in the show. There was also a black brother on the drums that was exceptional, but I don't think he was related to the others. They all play multiple instruments, sing and are very talented. In my opinion Catherine was one of the best musician's and the most modest. I believe that they owe much of the successes of their show to Dominic, the brother who is the musical director. Excellent job on his part. Dominic is pretty good at gymnastics as well. He did a very fast unassisted flip off of the stage and landed it hard. I gave that at 10.  
They role play a lot to give their show some theatre quality. My favorite role was one called BingoBoy which was played by Timothy. BanjoBoy is a kid that gets picked on because he plays Banjo,  later he retaliates in several different devious and mischievous ways.
I only saw one minor negative that isn't worth mentioning. I recommend this show for anyone. Nice clean energetic act with a lot of hard working young talent.
Old Mill Theatre (outdoor) production:
The finest outdoor theatre production, in my opinion is BlueJacket, in Xenia Ohio. BlueJacket is based on a true Shawnee Indian Chief (he was really a Dutchman), who defeated the frontier settler's twice just after the revolutionary war. It's action packed, has real Indian's in it and would be very hard to top, in my opinion.
Old Mill Theatre produces an adaption of a 1907 novel written by Harold Bell Wright (Shepherd of the Hills), which is a fictional story inspired by his visits to the Ozark's, in the late 1800's.  It was very nicely done, of good quality and entertaining. Study up on BaldKnobber's (the real one's not the musical group), cause it will help you understand part of the plot. Other then that, it was pretty straight forward and easy to follow, even for a Yankee.
Ozark Dinner Mystery Theatre:
The last show that we saw was an Ozark Dinner Mystery Theatre. It was low budget both in food and production, but entertaining none the less. As murder mysteries go, it had a crazy plot where anyone could plausibly have committed the murder's. I am guessing they switch up the ending every night, so picking the right person, is largely luck of the draw. I happened to pick the right person, but since I can't remember character's names,  I wrote down the wrong name. First prize that night was a 2013 corvette. I was pretty bummed out at my mistake, until I found out it just a matchbox car.
Downtown Branson:
The downtown area is a nice piece of late 1800's classic Americana for the most part. The waterfront was revitalized around 2005 and I have to give them an A+ on it. A very large, nicely done, pedestrian only area.
The only negative to the downtown area, is that some worthless politician(s), let the Hilton build a huge hotel/conference complex in an area that should not have been zoned for it. It's too close to the historic section and looks like a huge, expensive, very out of place, turd. 



Iceland - Interior

by Kimp 25. May 2013 03:56

Photo Blog

A few of the first pictures are washed out. It was during the start of this trip, that Jason discovered, my camera settings were quite a bit off.
All of Iceland is an unforgiving landscape formed by volcanic activity. It sits on top of one of the hot spots in the mid-Atlantic ridge. The mid Atlantic ridge is where the North American and European continental plates meet-up. There are over 100 volcano's in Iceland and as the two continents move farther apart, one erupts about every 5 years. 5km (3 miles) below Iceland it's between 20% and 100% molten rock.
It's location near the Arctic circle creates ample runoff from the melting snow. All of this leaves the landscape, fairly rocky, fairly barren, fairly colorful, full of waterfalls and full of outdoor thermal baths. Most of it is 100% natural and it's a beautiful and healthy place to visit. Fishing has been Iceland's main staple, yielding many tiny, quaint, and sleepy fishing villages dotting the coast, that add just a hint of life, to the barren landscape.
Jason and I took a few road trip's to see all the puzzle pieces, that Iceland has to offer.
We started at a place called Þingvellir which is a large national park. I had a heck of a time finding it, because I had written the name down on my scratchpad as Pingvellir. It's one of Icelands National Heritage sites (I believe a world UNESCO one as well) and I was still befuddled as to why we couldn't find it, when Jason figured out what the problem was. That first character isn't a P, it is an Icelandic character that is pronounced th. So it is pronounced Thingvelliar in English. 
Þingvellir is a natural rift valley formed in the Earth, by an Earthquake. It's a long narrow passageway between two large rock formations. Iceland has the longest continuous democracy in the World and 1000 years ago, the democratic Icelandic forefathers chose this as a their Assembly meeting place.
The assembly was a joint Parliament and Supreme Court. In 970 when it was founded they didn't have any written law book's, so they would start the proceedings with some dude reciting the entire law code from memory. Any member of Iceland was allowed to attend and after the recital, anyone could offer their opinion on the current laws, where changes would be discussed or on new laws, which would also be discussed.
These proceedings were followed by the pleading of law cases to the court, from anyone whom felt wronged. Punishment for crimes was often corporal and executed via drowning. They would tie a person in a cloth bag, wrap ropes around it, pull it into the cold water, then dunk it.
These activities lasted for about an entire month and many Icelandic people would attend this yearly event. It was kind of like a festival with food and nighttime activities as well. Today, key Icelandic events, like the 1000 year anniversary of democracy, are still held here.
Adjacent to it, is Þingvellir lake, which is the largest natural lake in Iceland.
The next stop was Geysir. Like its name, it is home to several Geysir's. The largest one, called the Great Geysir is currently dormant, but has been believed to have spewed water up to 170 meters (about 500 ft) at its peak. Park rangers can force an eruption, but only do, on very special occasions. There is an active Geysir name Strokkur near by, that spews about the size of Old Faithful, up to 40 m (120 ft), on a clock of about every 5 minutes.
From there we went onto Gulfoss (Golden Falls), where a lake drains into a valley rift creating a picturesque landscape that most would enjoy.
Then onto the fishing village of Stokkseyri which is a natural wetlands, followed by another fishing village named Eyrabakki. Eyrabakki is home of the oldest house in Iceland and a nice museum dedicated to Icelandic fishing of days gone by.
Our last stop was at the Blue Lagoon. The blue lagoon is a very large man made thermal pool. The water is 2/3 seawater and 1/3 fresh mineral water. It has a toxic blue color to it, but no chemicals have been added. The water is pumped about 1 km (.5 miles) down into the earth where it is heated by the earth. All of the water circulates in about 1 day. It was 45 degrees, windy and cold outside, but very warm and comfortable in the water, and it left my skin very soft. Some people put some kind of white mud on their face as well, but I didn't try that.
Lastly, Jason and I also went on a Whale watching expedition, which is detailed in my Reykjavik, Iceland writeup.



Iceland - Reykjavic

by Kimp 24. May 2013 05:11

Photo Blog

I must have been doing some low light photography before heading to Reykjavic. About 1/2 of these pictures turned out very light. I darkened them as must as I could. It's relatively easy to lighten photography, but very difficult to darken photography. Sorry for the poor picture quality. After I take a picture I start concentrating on the next picture and never stop to look at the one I just took.

I meet Jason in Iceland. Jason is one of my favorite people to travel with. We've been lots of places together and we have exactly the same travel style. I call it A2C2N2 pronounced "A two C two N two" which stands for Art, Architecture, Culture, Cuisine, Nature and Nightlife. We hit at least one of each area, each time we travel. He's one of a very small handful of people, whom I've meet, that have the interest, drive and stamina it takes to travel that way. He also has the "I'm on vacation" travel philosophy that I try to maintain. That means, I know that one or more really messed up things are going to happen, I don't know what they are going to be, nor when they are going to happen. I just know that they are going to happen, and when they do, I am just going to make the best of it, laugh it off and not let it bother me, cause I'm on vacation.

My history
Odur Burenson, a jazz drummer from Reykjavik Iceland, was one of my good friends at music college. His father was the principle Trombone player for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. For some crazy reason, Odur thought that I had really good ears. I remember him taking me to several music stores in Boston to pick out new cymbals for him. Thirty years ago, a single top quality cymbal was often over a thousand dollars and I kept telling Odur that I wasn't comfortable picking out part of his kit for him. But he insisted. Cymbals are all hand made from multiple alloys of metal which yield a variety of distinct properties both within the same batch and between batches. So their sounds have acute to obtuse differences in them. I liken it to picking out a fine wine, which in the end, really comes down to personal taste. We spent about 4 different days going to different places, and he was taking notes as I described the sounds that I was hearing. In the end, he picked out the three that he liked and made me make the final decision. That was a great showing of respect on his part.

One time Odur's older brother came to visit. His brother always carried a flask full of whiskey with him and he poured it in whatever we were drinking. Morning coffee, something at the ice cream shop, McDonald's, it didn't seem to mater. I didn't really start drinking until I was about 25, so I didn't understand that, but he was really cool and I accepted it. None the less, this was Odur's brother, that he looked up to. Turns out, that's a part of their youth culture.

Beer was outlawed in Iceland until 1989 (pet dogs where also outlawed until about the same time), so hard liquor was what everybody drank before that. Now there are about 4 breweries with VIKING (always in all capital letters in a sans serif font) seeming to be the most prevalent. I sampled quite a few of those, and give it Craig's seal of approval.

Viking/Irish Blood Line
The first people in Iceland were Irish Monks who came migrated there around 700 A.D. because it was very peaceful on that very Northern rock. The Viking discovered Iceland around 850 and in the 870's there were lots of political issues in Scandinavia which started an Icelandic migration wave.  Many of those early settlers were Farmers and Irish people just looking for a peaceful place to live. They lived peacefully with the Viking's for about 20 years. Around 890 the Viking's wanted to expand their empire, so they built huge strong fleet's that took over nearly all of the European coastal area's, even all of the way across the Mediterranean. Iceland was no exception and the non-viking Icelanders became slaves to the Viking ruling elite.

It's been said that the Vikings often had children with their Irish slaves and I can definitely see the blend of Viking and the Irish heritage in Icelandic people. For the most part, they appear to be a hearty people, with a hearty appetite for food and fun. Having the longest continuous democracy of any country, they are a fiercely independent society and voice-tress against anything that hints of governmental control of the people.

It has been said that if a Viking from 1000 years ago came back, he would be able to understand and speak fluent Icelandic. The language stayed true to its old Norse lingo. And Iceland still uses the Nordic naming convention. If you are a boy and your father was named Carl, your last name will be Carlson and if you are a girl, your last name would be Carlsdattr. That makes tracing Icelandic linage, very difficult.

Today Iceland's population is around 300,000 with more then 200,000 living in Reykjavik. There isn't a single train in all of Iceland (most people own cars), yet it's a very easy city to get around in. And there appears to be a preference for four wheel drive vehicles with extra large tires.
The heat and smell of Iceland
Reykjavik means smoky bay. That's from all of the thermal activity in the area. The heating is very cheap, all they need to do is pump the water. In order to get cold water they need to cool it. It's the only place in the world where the water needs to be cooled to get cold water. I didn't find that out until Jason told me. I saw an air-conditioning truck driving down the road and was laughing at it. "Why would they need air conditioning in Iceland?". Jason say's, "They need it to cool their water."

The prevalent smell in Iceland is from the minerals in their water. The tap water is actually very healthy, but the sulfur content makes it smell like rotten eggs and it has a strong mineral taste. I was used to that from Ohio water, where I grew up and didn't notice it at first, till Jason mentioned it, then it was very noticeable. The closed up apartment we stayed at, smelled like someone had hidden two dozen eggs under the furniture at Easter, two years ago, and only found a dozen of them. Jason's term was, "The whole place smells like rotten eggs and farts."

Icelandic people have the longest longevity of any culture. They are the only country in the world that has free public heath care and doesn't have a single private health care insurance company. They are also well educated, being the only country in the world that has free public college and not a single private college.

The one down side is that they're a debt driven economy. When debit was cheap they max'd it out, and now that debit is expensive, they're paying a high price for the learning experience.
Modern Artistic Meca
Reykjavik is full of artistic people driven by youthful energy. It's color is ever changing and part's of it are as exotic as the landscape. If you are easy going and care free at heart, it kind of fits like a glove. Coupled with friendliness, a very low crime rate, and long hours of sunlight make for a wonderful care free experience any time of day or night. 

Most of their art is post WWII, I found it to be young, modern, colorful, meaningful and vibrant. Even the statues look modern. Not much that is classical nor neoclassical that I noticed.

Most construction looks like post WWII and not much other then the color choice and metal roofs stuck out. Driving through Iceland, the only naturally occurring colors I saw were black, grey and various shades of brown. No trees and most of the small amount of grass they have is brown. They make up for that in the colors that they paint their buildings. Bright and vibrant, yet tasteful are the adjectives that quickly came to mind. Lots of color in even their tiny fishing villages. The metal roofs are brightly colored as well and I was told by a local, that if were went to climb the top of the church steeple and look down at Reykjavik, the tops of the roofs would be just as colorful as the buildings are from the street.

There are two main types of food in Iceland. There's lots of very healthy fish and there is lots of very hearty fat food, with little in-between. I would have to say that their heavy dish's rival only the United States in grams of fat per serving. Not many milk cows in Iceland. The prevalent dairy product seemed to be cheese and they put the cheese on thick.

They also like lots of sweet flavor. Seems like there is some type of sweet sauce on just about every meat sandwich. It's kind of like a very sweet hollandaise sauce. I like sweet things, so I was favoring it the time.
Food only comes at one price level, very high. The highest I have ever seen. Probably driven by everything, except fish, being imported from great distances. Even the fish is expensive, because they can export it at high prices. Why sell cheap locally, when the rest of the world will pay a premium for your product.

Any restaurant lunch (lunches are as hearty as dinner) or dinner meal is $50 minimum. Breakfast is on the hearty side and usually runs about $20. I was averaging about $100 per day in just food, which was one restaurant meal, something like Pizza or a sub sandwich, a few snacks or pastries and beer. Beer is about $10 each, but of very good quality.

Saturday night, we ate at the trendy restaurant that was run by the top chief in Iceland. Absolutely the best fish I have ever eaten. I tried to order Ocean Perch which looked like it was on the menu, but was instructed that was not on the menu and told that I needed to pick from the main courses, which did not have Ocean Perch as a selection. Not sure what that was all about, maybe Ocean Perch is his signature dish, but they don't serve that on Saturday, which would be the day you can't hardly find a table at his restaurant. Or maybe she just didn't like the way I looked. I also had a large bowl of spicy fish soup that left me wanting a lot more. Very small main course portion and two small beers (I called them baby beers) ran a little over a $100 for me. We were way under-dressed, but nobody seemed to care or even pay any undo attention to us.

Place's to stay
Hotels are expensive. Since Jason was meeting me there, we rented an apartment from a local artist for $160 a day and split it. Very nice place, I loved it a lot, took lots of pictures of the apartment, could easily live there and be very happy.

Arctic Circle
Sunset 11:15 P.M. Sun Rise 3:30 A.M. in late May. The very top of Iceland is just on the Arctic circle, so they don't have midnight sun, but for the most part, the sun just kind of goes down and then comes back up. You almost don't even notice the sunset, as it doesn't get very dark outside. Jason and I kept a very late schedule the whole time we were there.
I quickly discovered that a 60% chance of rain means some type of rain for about 6 minutes then not raining for about 4 minutes, then repeat the cycle. I could tell you the chance of rain on any given day, just by looking at my watch. There was a thick fluffy cloud cover the entire time we were there, however it was still very bright out. The sun is so strong up there, that it's light cuts through the clouds. Even when it was raining, the light was strong. Most of the rainfall was lite, but did accumulate on our clothes making them fairly wet. Wool seems to be a prevalent material in most Icelandic outer garments, since it stays warm and comfortable, even when it's wet. Usually May is in the Mid 50's, but it was in the mid-40's the whole time were were there. It felt like good fall football weather to me.

Mostly Lutheran/Protestant with a small Catholic (probably Irish) contingent. Making a comeback is a revival variation of an old Norse pagan religion, but still only about 0.5% in strength. 


Iceland's nightlife culture, called the Runtur (means Round Tour) goes like this. Come home from work and rest up. Around 10 or 11 P.M., start drinking at home. Around 12:30 A.M. make an early hook-up at a local establishment. Meet some people, then about every thirty minutes, move down the street to the next place. Repeat, occasionally purchasing an expensive drink along the way. Most Icelanders nurse only two drinks the entire night. About 4:30 A.M. when the bands stop playing (lots of live bands with no cover), maybe think about starting to leave. Around 5:30 A.M. make your final hook-up for the night, go get something to eat at the pizza place or at one of the many food trucks that are lining the square, then head home. The walk home is going to feel like noon because the sun will be blaring.

The best Runtur is any Friday, but Saturday was pretty good too. Jason and I did a 1/2 of one on Friday and a whole one on Saturday.

We created an Americanized friendly Icelandic method. We walked around town listening for live bands that were playing. They play very loud, so it's easy to hear them from the street. When we heard one that sounded like we could sit and listen all night, we went in. We started around 11:30 P.M., so most places were dead and it was easy to get a prime seat for viewing the band and the small dance floor at the same time. About 12:30 A.M. the people start to show up and after that it is wall to wall people until around 5:00 A.M. We got to see everybody in Iceland because they all bar hopped and we just stayed in one place.

Long Island Girls
Early on Saturday night Jason and I ran into two Long Island girls on the street. They were looking for a very artsy bistro turned bar that Jason and I had hung out at, for a while on Friday night. We chatted with those girls for a while and they wanted pictures with us (I have no clue why). One was very cute, but it quickly became apparent to me, that they could leave NYC, but couldn't find it in themselves to leave the NYC attitude in NYC. If it wasn't for that, I might have asked to join them and had at least one beer before going on our way. Instead, as the pain built up in my head, I found myself trying to get rid of them quickly. I told them that they were going to love that place, point it out, and quickly turned to make an escape.

Reykjavik has lots of very artistic Bistro's. Kind of like a really nice and comfortable coffee shop with great food during the day, that turn's into a bar at night. It's an, all day, kind of comfortable.

Saturday Night Live Skit
On Friday night,Jason and I hit a great band at a large bar named Finlandia. Just Guitar, Bass and drum's playing mostly 70's era music. Those guys were great and we really enjoyed the music along with all of the other activities that were going on around them. We left without our hearing, a little light headed, and with big smiles.

Saturday, we saw a band setting up there, and headed in for what we thought was going to be another great night. Five pieces (drum, keyboard, bass, guitar and vocal). The vocalist had a very colorful personality that started with his Brown plaid suit jacket that didn't match anything else, that he was wearing, nor his Irish red hair, and ended with a vibrant smile. He came over to me, shook my hand, and told me that this was the best band in all of Iceland. He said that normally they play for thousands. Jason and I likened it to being in a small pub in London and in walk the Rolling Stone's.

As soon as they started playing, it turned into a really funny Saturday Night Live skit. Nothing, even remotely, had any quality to it. The drummer and keyboardist may have been good, but there was so much craziness going on around them, that it completely masked anything they were doing. One of their first tunes was a fairly simple, Van Morrison's, "Brown Eyed Girl". The bass player was out of tune and off beat. The vocal was in English, but with a comically thick Icelandic accent and very pitchy at times. And I'm pretty sure that the guitar player was playing a different tune in a different key. Yet, the charismatic lead man was grooving like it was perfect.

I don't remember the name of the next song, but it had a four part harmony in it. Whew, that harmonization would have had any dog within 20 miles crying. It also had a guitar solo. True to form, the solo starts out in a different key, different tempo and was unlike anything I've ever heard. The only saving grace was that his amp went down half way through his solo and he just kind of stood there dumbfounded while the rest of the band was trying to keep playing and troubleshoot the equipment at the same time.

Jason and I were crying tears of laughter for three songs and were trying really hard to make it through a whole set before leaving. About the 4th song, the novelty had worn off and we headed out mid song to find a place to sooth and repair our damaged ears.

Earlier in the day, I had remembered walking past an Irish pub that had a sign advertising live music on it. I have been to lots of Irish pub's all over the world and the few that have live music are usually nice quaint dueling guitars or something like that. This was no exception and luckily we got there just before the big crowd's started to arrive. These two guys were very high quality and one of them was tour quality in my opinion. After hitting the jackpot a second night, we settled in for a very nice evening.

Irish Bar hilariousness
I have been to Irish bars in at least 20 different countries and all have just about the same business model. Very comfortable, the owner is usually a old cantankerous Irish dude that comes complete with a strong Irish attitude. If you make the mistake of ordering french fries instead of chip's you'll get what I call the "Chip's are not French fries lecture.". They appear to dislike the French. On weekends they are the best sport's bar's, people always speak English in them, Monday night is usually music night (bring your own instrument and sit in), Tuesday night is Quiz night and they have an occasional mystery night (act out a part to help solve a mystery). The all have an Irish green color theme and they always have Guinness on tap.

I walk into the Icelandic Irish Bar. Green color theme and a very large Guinness sign right out front beside the main door. I walk right up to the bartender and order up two Guinness, with a big smile. The bartender gives me a very confused look and ask's me to repeat what I'm ordering. I'm thinking that maybe I was supposed to day Pint's, cause they seem to like to hear the word Pint inside of 1/2 liter.  So, I hold up two fingers and loudly say, "Two Pints of Guinness", with a bigger smile. He turns to the other bartender and says, "Dude, do we serve Guinness?". Dude, say's, "Nope, we old have Viking, Viking amber, and Viking stout. But the Viking stout is just like Guinness.", and their ain't no smile on his face. "Fine, I'll take two VIKING Stout's." It was a good beer, but wasn't anything like the beer created by Arthur Guinness. Guinness can only be made in one place and there is no substitute.

Captain's Hat
From around 2 A.M. until 4 A.M. is seemed like hundreds of people were streaming past our table every ten minutes, either on the way in or on the way out. Several were wearing sailor's captains hat. The kind that a wealthy sail boat captain would wear. Except they looked more like the relaxed captain in the "Captian and Tennille" musical duo.  One stopped by to shake my hand and Jason asked him what was up with the captain's hat's. He said it was college graduation. So we were guessing that's a tradition at the local college.
Just after Jason and I arrived at the Irish Bar a beautiful Icelandic women in her thirties sat in with the duo and sang Dolly Parton's Jolene. She had a pleasing voice and sung it very well. She was like a sophisticated southern country girl trapped in a world at was anything but that. About 4 A.M. she sat down at our table across from Jason and they chatted it up for quite a while. She was saying that Reykjavik has a small town feel to it, most of the bar people know each other and they're kind of like family. There are always a lot of foreign people passing through, and they enjoy hanging out, with many different types of people. Hearing her perspective, warmed my heart.

The boat

At 5 A.M. Jason and I headed to the square to get something to eat. There were a dozen portable food truck's there. It was one of the rare times where making a decision of what to eat, was confusing to me. I was talking to a girl next to me in line at one truck and she pointed and said, "The best place to eat is over there.". I asked her what to get, and she said, "I got the boat yesterday, and it was awesome. I would get one today too, if I hadn't have gotten one yesterday.". I headed over there like superman. Able to leap from truck to truck in a single bound.

I was very tipsy, but I think mostly from being tired. There were two people in front of me in line, but I was starving and tried to order in front of them, by yelling over them. As son as I heard, "Who's next?". "I'D LIKE TWO BOATS PLEASE!!!". Very confused the minimum wage worker asks me to repeat my order. In rapid succession, "I'd like two boats, I was told to get a boat cause it was the best, I just need a boat, could you please get me two boats? I really need a boat!!!". The worker looks like she is about to cry, when I glance at the menu and see that there are a bunch of items with the word boat behind them (I realized that boat means make a sub and put everything on it). Quickly picking one at random, I yell, "Ohhhh, Pizza Boat?!?. Yea give me two Pizza boats. I'd really like to have two Pizza boats, please :) That's just what I need!". I'm even leaning over the two short people in front of me and have my finger on the menu next to Pizza boat, even though the menu was in a place where the worker couldn't see it, nor what I was pointing at. She made them in about 1/2 a second just to get me away from there. Later, Jason told me I was entertaining the whole crowd in the square. They were all laughing at me.

It dawned on me the next day, that the girl telling me to get the boat, may have just been trying to get rid of me.



Liechtenstein - Valduz, Malbun, and Triesenberg

by Kimp 15. May 2013 23:38
Liechtenstein is one of only 5 micro countries in Europe. It's about 12 miles (20km) long by 5 miles (8 km) wide with about 70% of it being in the Austrian Alps. All of the remaining micro countries have the same business model. Set up a tax structure that favors the excessively wealthy and lots of excessively wealthy people will move there. The wealthy put there money in the local finance, building it up and that feeds the local commerce and industry sectors. Most of Liechtenstein was built after WWII and is very modern and very beautiful. Beauty attracts tourism and you get people coming directly to you to give you their money. Attract a few very smart commerce negotiators who set up good trade agreements with your neighbors, then you can just sit around and count your money.
A few hundred years ago, much of Europe consisted of very tiny societies called principalities. During the industrial revolution of the 1800's, as the Armies of principalities with strong industry gained a competitive advantage, many of the the principalities aligned and formed the countries that we have today, such as Italy, Austria and Germany.   
Liechtenstein is one of only 5 principalities that have stood the test of time. In ancient times, principalities declared allegiance to a King and the King was free to assign whomever he wanted as the prince. Often times it was either a blood relative or someone married to a blood relative. Other times, is was a lord or knight who had loyally and selfishly served the King.  In the 1600's, the King of the Austrian empire gave some land bordering the Rhine river to one of his loyal knights named Hugo, who was a member of the lords of Liechtenstein.
On the other side of the Rhine lies what is known today as Switzerland.
In the 1719 the Liechtenstein's purchased this land from the Holy Roman Emperor and it was declared the Sovereign State of Liechtenstein. This gave Liechtenstein a seat in the Holly Roman Empire.
In 1805 when Napoleon wiped out the Holly Roman Empire, Liechtenstein owed no allegiance to anyone and broke off on its own. Since it is on the same side of the Rhine as Austria, it became an ally of Austria. With Austria on its side, it disbanded its military. Liechtenstein remained neutral during WWI and WWII. After WWII Austria was so devastated and Switzerland was flourishing, so Liechtenstein decided to ally up with Switzerland instead. Now Liechtenstein's borders in Austria are guarded by the Switzerland border patrol and Liechtenstein uses Swiss Franks as its currency.
Vaduz is its capital with about 5,000 inhabitants. It's biggest city is a blue color city, named Schaan. Most of the rest are beautiful small summer resort hiking towns in the mountains, and one very nice winter resort town named Malbun. Malbun has excellent skiing and it's not very crowded because most people drive right on by Leichenstein, on their way to Switzerland.
One of the highlights for me was the Modern Art museum in Vaduz. in 1960, someone donated 10 pieces of art to start it. Now it is housed in a new museum. Since most of this country was created after WWII, all they have is modern art. Each year they give a year long grant to an artist, to work on an exhibition that will be displayed here. Vaduz itself, has a lot of nice modern looking sculptures and art outdoors as well.
I went to Liechtenstein to get my high altitude hiking back up to speed. I was struggling in the thin air, but that didn't seem to affect the 70+ year old guy, who flew by me at a trot. I am probably 100 pounds (45 kg) heavier than him, but still it was a little embarrassing.



Germay - Radelthon

by Kimp 9. May 2013 22:57

Photo Blog

My history:
I grew up in a small mid-western town. There was about a square mile (4 square km) of dairy cattle pasture in my backyard, a square mile (4 square km) of woods in my front yard and only about 10 houses within close walking distance. Other then the farm in my backyard, the town was mostly residential. Adjacent to our township was a large manufacturing plant, that produced wiring harnesses, mostly for General Motors cars, but also for a few of their competitors. Adjacent in another direction was a large steel mill. Many of the people living there, worked in one of the two local industries or something that supported them. The town was exceptionally supportive of its school systems and took great pride in anything that had to do with the schools.

Close by, were several auto industry related manufacturing facilities, in support of General Motors, including an assembly plant for vans and another that assembled cars.
My parents house was situated in a sleepy corner of the township. A mile (2 km) in one direction was a different township and a mile (2 km) in another was a yet another, different township. All of the above left me isolated from the rest of our township, which was made up of a few housing developments, one medium sized and one fairly a large sized, full of 1970's era blue collar houses. I had friends in several developments, so I got to see what development life that was all about as well. There were not any apartment complexes that I could remember, everybody owned their dwellings and property.

The religious side, was a mixed bag of denominations. I attended the Lutheran church, of which my parents were founding members. My mom played the organ every other Sunday and from the time I was about 3, until I was around 6, I could be found sitting on the Organ bench next to her, while she played. She also played piano and chimes. Mother had a full time job, but after work, she would often spend two or more long nights each week, practicing. Off and on, I'd hang out at the church while she was practicing. I've always been good at finding something to occupy my time, in just about any environment. Sometimes I would go down and fiddle with one of the church pianos, in a remote location, from where my mom was. A church becomes an entirely different place when nobody else is around. It's odd how it cycles from being full of life to being lifeless in a mere few minutes, with most of it's time spent in the lifeless zone.

Someone from our church donated an old upright piano, so mom could practice at home, but we didn't have any place to keep it, because my parents were raising a family of four children in a two bedroom house.  So, the piano was put in the basement, where the humidity eventually destroyed it.

On off weeks, mom would sometimes fill in, for organists from other churches. They'd offer to pay her, but she would often turn down the money. She is the most benevolent and most righteous person, I've ever known. I had not seen her drink alcohol, until she was in her seventies and tried some wine at a family gathering.
My father, was an exceptional bowler. He could have gone Pro, but he choose to stay in town and be around his family. Bowling is huge in Northeastern Ohio. Dad was always in at least 2 bowling leagues. He was in three once or twice,  and I think he would have preferred to be in three all of the time. Mom always supported dad's bowling, cause that was the only money he spent on himself, but three was too much for her.

I would often go to the bowling alley to hang out. Everybody there knew me. They had a playroom that had some really cool toys in it, and when I wasn't in the play room, myself and a few kids would be tearing up and down the bowling alley walkway. The only rule we had to abide by, was not to go outside.

My father was a career electrician and he would often volunteer to perform free electrical work for his friends, the church, and for anyone who attended church. I always went with him, and I learned a lot about that trade, from a very young age. I've kept that knowledge my whole life and I still enjoy working with it, when I get the chance.

Crime in our township was pretty minimal for the most part. I remember someone stealing an old bike out of our garage, but they left another one in its place that had a broken tire. And once our 5 gallon gas can was stolen. For most of my life, none of our doors were locked and we left the car keys in the cars ignition when we got home.

Most of my close neighbors, for the entire time I was growing up were boys and we played hard. For the longest time, I was the youngest by several years, out of about a dozen neighborhood boys. I played whatever they played. We all lived simple lives where there wasn't much to do inside of the house, so we played outside. We climbed anything that could be climbed, built multi-level tree houses, built forts, built handmade model boats and floated them down the ditches. By the time I was ten, I knew how to use about every hand tool that there was. One of my neighbors owned any oxy-acetelene torch that could cut and fuse steel. I always thought that was the coolest tool that there ever was.

There was also an ancient abandoned saw mill in the far corner of the woods with some of the equipment and buildings still in place. And the cow pasture was once a dirt landing strip, so it was kind of flat and well maintained. Sometimes we would ride our bike through the cow pasture, cause it was rough and we could go pretty fast through it. There was a very small building at the end, that had the airport call signs embedded in its roof shingles in a sharply contrasting color. A very tiny house, that used to be the airport building. In later years, we built model rockets and launched them in the cow pasture. It was a great place for that. I became accustom to the feeling of stepping in a cow pie while running and not paying attention to where I was stepping. Most of the time, they were hard, but every once in a while I would wander upon a fresh one.

I also had a neighbor who built and flew radio controlled aircraft. Some of them were pretty big. He used the paved road in front of my house as a take off and landing strip for his model planes. He actually built them for other people, but would fly them for a while before he sold them. He always had dozens of aircraft in his garage. I would hang around him and watch, I wasn't allow to touch anything, but from time to time he would enthusiastically who me something, that was way over my knowledge base. I think he just liked to have someone hanging around while he tweaked a plane to get it just right. It was fascinating to me and sometimes the planes would get far enough away that he lost radio contact. That is when we would jump in his car, and I had the duty of plane spotter, while he was the driver. One of two things would happen, either we would get close enough that he could regain control, or it would go down and we would have to set out on foot to search for it.

One time, he was flying a really expensive plane upside down, just off of the ground. Since it was upside down, he needed to push down on the control to make it go up. It got too close to the ground, he got excited and pulled up on the control by mistake, driving it straight into the ground. It was completely destroyed. Another time, he was flying a large plane towards his house and lost radio control of it. It crashed into his roof. Destroyed the plane the put a big hole in his roof. His wife was pretty upset over that mishap.

Also on my side of town about 1/4 mile (0.4 km) away was a small nine hole, par 3 golf course. I never played golf, but from the time I was about 10, until I graduated high school and left town, I could always be found at the golf course when Pete was there. There were two owners, Pete and one of his friends. Pete was a very well off businessman. He owned and rented out three very large stores. He said, that when he retired, his wife got tired of hm being around the house all of the time and told him to find something to occupy his time. He bought this golf course and he and his partner divided the task of maintaining it. I would often work on the golf courses motorized equipment. I learned small engine repair (by watching my dad disassemble a lawn mower once and teaching me how it worked), from a very early age (around 8 years old) and I just loved doing it. I did it for free and really got to know Pete very well.

Pete had a lot of money and a good college education, but the Pete that I knew was extremely frugal. His clothes were very old and worn out, he always wore an old golf cap that had about 10 years of wear and tear on it, he drove an ancient station wagon that burnt oil and I saw him proudly pinch every penny. I only saw his wife one time. She was extremely well dressed, manicured, and drove a brand new luxury car. I never saw his house either, but he brought me the blue prints and we would discuss some of the construction and repair projects he had going on. It was a fairly large brick house on about an acre of land in a fairly upscale development.

There were rocking chairs in the lobby of the golf club house, and most of the time, Pete and I would sit and rock, and talk for hours at a time. He taught me a lot about people and life. He wanted to teach me how to run a small business, but I had no interest in learning those skills. He would get the golf courses books out and try to teach me accounting. I'd tell him, Pete, put the damn numbers books away, I'd rather learn how to hand sharpen a reel mower, then learn how to work with numbers. Now I'm kind of wishing, I'd have just shut the hell up and learned what he was trying to teach me. He also tried to teach me about investing and he always told me to buy gold. Thirty five years later, I'm wishing I'd have listened to him about the gold and I also wish, I'd tried to learning investing from him. He would have been a great mentor.

Pete was crying pretty hard went I went off to college, cause he knew he wouldn't ever see me again. A year later he sold the golf course and I haven't see him since. I've never been one for keeping up with people.

The dairy farm:
The dairy farm house and barn for the pasture that was behind my house, was not far away from my house. I worked on the farm when I was twelve, just long enough (less then one summer) to learn that business wasn't one that I wanted to be involved with.

Back then, Ohio had a child labor law that stated, that a children could not be employed at a farm until they were twelve. Ohio was also kind enough to waiver the minimum wage law for farmers. Here is what the application process was like:
"Does your mom know that you want to work here?"
"Yes sir, and she's behind me 100 percent. She is all for it!!!"
He looks at my arms and says, "You look like a good strong boy. But follow me, cause I'd like to test your strength."
He had a wagon that he was working on. I had to bench press the back axle, with the tire still on it, so he could put a bolt into it.
This was followed by moving and stacking a bunch of bales of hay. Rearranging the tools in his shop. Sweeping the floors. shoveling and moving a bunch of stuff around in a wheel barrow, and stacking a bunch of bricks. About 6 hours later, he says. Yea, you'll do fine. You can stat tomorrow.

Now that I am old and wise. I think he just wanted to get a free day of work out of me.

Being exposed to that life, I really have a lot of respect for any small farmer. During the summer, the farm owner (I called him old man Donald, cause he also has a son named Donald) would pick me up at 6:00 A.M. in an old beat-up pickup truck. Rain or shine, I'd jump in the back (now that's against the law in Ohio), and off we would go. At around 10:00 P.M. he'd drop me back off.  I'd have to disrobe outside the door of the house, cause my mom didn't want me bringing any cow excrement into the house.  The pay was 50 cents an hour, so I made $8 a day and got paid every two weeks. Over time, it would accumulate and it seemed to me, like I had a lot of money, cause I never had any time to spend any of it. I left that money in the bank (cause that is what my mom taught me),  and drew out just enough to buy some model rocket parts and a few plastic models, and some modeling tools.

Mrs. Philips:
The next summer, I mowed lawns to make some money. One of the neighbors was named Mrs. Philips. Beside's the lot her house was on, she owned three more lots on our street without any houses on them. She lived all by herself and next to my mother, she was the absolute nicest person to kids, that I've ever known. Besides being kind, she was very generous. She paid me $5 to mow those three lots, plus her house and she supplied both the push mower and the gas. At that time, that was unheard of in the lawn mowing business. I was at her house, every Saturday morning, asking her if she wanted her lawn's mowed.

If I pulled the weeds and cared for her flowers, I got an extra $3. It took me a while to learn that trade, but once she taught me, her flower beds were well maintain at that price.

At the end of that summer. I took all of the money I had made from farming and landscaping and bought an old riding lawn mower. It was at the side of a friends house and his dad never used it anymore. It was very old and rusted out and didn't run, but I could tell it was very well made and it had a really cool look to it. I asked his dad if he wanted to sell it. His dad said, "You know that mower hasn't ran in years." I said, "I 'm sure I can fix it". Then told him how much money I had and he sold it to me for about half of what I had in the bank.

I took it home, tore it completely apart and refurbished it (sort of). When I got done, mechanically it was perfect, but after sanding all of the multiple layers of rust off of it, I decided to paint it bright purple with a very coarse metal flake. The engine was bright Chevy Orange (the color all vintage Chevrolet small blocks). It really glittered in the bright sun. If you didn't have sun glasses on, it hurt your eyes.

Funny think is, I seldom mowed any lawns with it. Most of the time, I had the mower attachment off of it and used it as a tractor for all of the projects I had going on in the woods. Part of the reason I wanted that lawn mower, was because it had lots of ground clearance without the mower on it. It had big tires that didn't sink into soft soil and it had a very unique suspension system that allowed me to get into places where other lawn mowers would have been stuck.

The old, small town, credit system:
I grew up in an era before small towns had credit card systems. It was a cash based economy. At the grocery store and at the gas stations, they just had a book with a line item that had your name on it. You would get whatever you needed, and after totaling it all up, you would just tell the clerk. My name's Kimpel, just put it on my tab. They didn't check an ID nor anything, and just said OK. Once a month, my dad would stop by and either pay them in cash, or make arrangements to pay them some now and some in the future. No interest, no fuss, no hassle, just trust and faith.

In those days, grocery service was full service. The owner would see us come in, and get out of his office to greet us with a big grin, "Ah, Mrs. Kimpel, it is so nice to see you again, wow your boy is getting big and strond", then when we were done, he'd would come out of his office and take our groceries to our car and load them into our car with a big smile.

In those day's we didn't buy milk from the grocery store, it was delivered twice a week directly to our house. They didn't care if we bought any milk, and would stop and ask us, if we wanted any. We bought all of our meat directly from the butcher, a half of a cow at a time. We would split it with two of three other family's. They delivered it and stocked it in our chest freezer for us.

Hap owned the full service gas station that was about 2 miles (3 km) from my house. This was back when someone pumped your gas for you, they cleaned your windshield and checked your oil. Hap also performed auto repairs and his passion was restoring vintage Ford Model A's and Model T's. They were in pristine condition. Hap did all of the maintenance work on my dad's car's and while he was working on them, my dad and I would hang out with him. Hap saw me take an interest in everything that he was doing, so he started explaining everything to me as he worked. What he was looking for, what he was listening for, mechanical theory, fluid dynamics, auto electrical, how to find parts, why he choose some parts over others. I was like a sponge and got to know Hap very well.

One day, Hap needed to keep my dad's car overnight. So he told my dad, just to pick out any of his vintage antique cars and drive it home, free of charge. My dad choose a Model A that had a rumple seat. A rumble seat, is one that is inside of the trunk. You open the trunk lid and it becomes the back of the seat. The trunk is outside of the car, so it is kind of like riding in a convertible, except the driver is inside of the car, under the roof. My dad always called that the Mother-in-Law seat, but I didn't understand that joke until I much older. My dad, picked up some of my friends and took us all to the ice cream shop (a common small town hang out). That was an awesome day.

When Pete wasn't around, sometimes I would ride my bike up to Hap's gas station and hang out with Hap. Hap had a really cool vintage coke dispenser (the kind that didn't take money) and he would always let me have a bottle for free. When he was taking a break, I would sit around and talk to him in the waiting area and when he was working, I would hang out and learn from him. Normally Hap didn't want to talk business, he just wanted to talk mechanic's, so we got along great. Hap didn't have a college education and he saw the world through completely different glasses then Pete did.

A few years went by and someone built a new self service gas station across the street from Hap's full service station. Hap spent countless hours observing their business and worrying. I could tell he was worried, but didn't know what he was worried about. One day, he gives me a job and said it was extremely important for me to concentrate and not make a mistake. He had me count the number of cars that pulled in and got gas at the new gas station. The system he wanted me to use, had time slots on it, (Like 12 to 1, 1 to 2, etc. I had to keep tallies of the cars getting gas at those times. This went on for weeks.

After a few weeks he tallies them all up and say's. "God D***  It, they are purposely under cutting prices just to put me out of business." In other words, they were taking a three month loss in profits and going deeper in debit to shut him down and take all of this business. He was right, cause three months later, he closed his doors for good, and right after that, they raised their prices significantly.

After that, Hap sold all of this vintage cars and took a job working in the school bus garage. I would see him from time to time, but I wasn't allowed to hang out or watch him there, so our relationship faded away fairly quickly. I asked Hap why he sold all of his old cars and he told me that he just lost the passion. After working on cars all day long, he didn't want to go home and work on them. That was a great lesson for me to learn and one I have tried to carry into my own live. Leave work at work and be something else when you aren't working.

I had the best of a lot of worlds. Lived in a very low crime area, received a good education, had a blend of heavy industry, mass manufacturing, farming, wildlife, lots of local community commerce, a few small businesses, and lots of people devoted to good causes. I had parents who were very good role models and who were very well respected within the community for their humbleness, simplicity, benevolence, support of the community and support of religion.
From a very early age, my parents raised me to be a very independent thinker. For the most part, they let me make my own decisions with minimal guidance. I'm not sure why, but most of the time, they would support me, even if their opinion differed from mine.
But my favorite thing to do was riding bicycles. I taught myself how to ride a bike then I was four years old. One of the older kids and I were running around my house. He was chasing me, and I jumped on his bike and took off. He gave chase, but I managed to keep out in front of him, mostly because I didn't know how to stop. I eventually crashed when I hit a ditch. It was one of his old bikes that he had outgrown, so he gave it to me for free, right there on the spot. That was the first time, I realized, that friends took care of friends.
Over the years we were always riding our bikes through the woods, in the pasture, and building all kinds of ramps to jump them over things. The best was when the county engineers came down our road to put in a water system. They dug a huge trenched ditch, then left it for about a year, before they came back to finish the project. Over that year, we had a zillion different obstacle courses set up in that long trench. The best part was that it was down hill, so anything that you created was exaggerated by the additional speed. We would have big rocks in the middle, ramps all over the place. Places where you had to climb the wall and get out, then come flying back in again. It was awesome and we were really bummed out when the engineers showed back up to finish the project.
I ended up with about a half dozen different bikes, of different sizes and in different states of repair. Seemed like I was always busting something or other. I broke pedals, rims, bent wheels over, broke lots of welds, busted seats, bent handle bars, busted bolts, had front ends completely disintegrate, snapped chain links and burnt through lots of tires. Hurling head first over the handle bars seemed like a weekly experience for me. Yet, somehow I always managed to escape serious injury.

Past relationship:
When I was in my late 30's, I dated a woman by the name of Annie. Annie was my age and was a black belt in some type of karate. At that age, she won every competition that she entered. I used to kid her that was only because there weren't very many women commenting in karate tournaments in her age group. She eventually gave up competing and became a competition judge. She had a number of other hobbies as well. I used to help her train in kick boxing until she kicked once, and I missed her leg with the pads. She knocked me clear across the room. Many of the things we did together involved some type of exercise and I really had a lot of fun with everything that we did together. One day we were in a spinning class and I realized that I could smoke her on a bike. After that, we went to a lot of biking events, cause that was the only thing that I could consistently beat her at, and every once in a while, in a relationship, a man just needs to be the man.

One day Annie says to me, "You know my clocks a ticking and I want to have a baby." . I was really excited, because I thought she wanted to get married. So I said, "Awesome, do you want to marry me?" She say's, "Well, if we had a few more years to make sure it would work, before I had a child, I absolutely would. But I can't afford to take that chance. So I just want to do it alone".

Wow, that was some serious hurt. It made me feel like I was a great person to hang out with, but wasn't good enough to be father material. I sucked up my pride, wholeheartedly supported her decision, and even though that ended our romantic relationship, I continued to help her get her house ready for parenthood. I spent a lot of time at her house, cause she was really nesting. She went through artificial insemination many times, but also went through a few miscarriages. That was a difficult thing to stand by and watch. After about 6 months we kind of faded apart and I headed in another direction. Mostly, the situation was too hard on me emotionally, because I wanted more then just friendship.
My awesome new bike:
Last fall, I enlisted the help of a good friend of mine, who is an avid competition trail bike rider. I only gave him one specification. I needed a bike that was going to be able to take a hard beating from a 250 pound (115 Kg) man, who knows how to punish a bike. He picked me out a bike that was half as much as I had planned on spending and one third of what I would've spent. I was pretty happy, but waited too long to purchase it. The new line of bikes come out on September. I went to buy it in late October. By that time, all of the bikes that the manufacturer planned to make for the entire model year had already been sold. But, I was very lucky, because I went to a huge bike shop and they had one on order that had not yet been sold. It was due to arrive in February, so they put my name on it. That was when I realized that bike must have been a really good price for its value. It came in, in March, and I picked it up in early April.
Reinhold Steinhilb:
Just after WW II ended, Germany was in total ruins, moral was at an all time low, people had nothing, and their future was very uncertain. A twenty year old German athlete by the name of Reinhold Steinhilb, gave them something to be proud of and cling on to. From 1948 - 1952 he was one of the top German professional bicyclists.

German Radel-thon
In 1991 Reinhold Steinhilb designed an 80km (50mi) mountain bike course named the Radel-Thon, that forms a big circle around Stuttgart. I'm not sure where the name come from, but I will give it a good guess.

Before WWII Germany wanted to be able to move tanks quickly through Germany. They couldn't do that on the AutoBahn, because the tanks would tear it up. So they built cobblestone roads, often adjacent to the Autobahn, that were for the express purpose of driving the tanks down them. These were heavily used and as a result of the weight of the tanks, they are the most uneven cobblestone roads in all of Europe. They aren't fit for use by cars, so they were abandoned and are now used as nice walking and bike paths.

The Radel-Thon incorporates about 5 miles of one of those tank roads and much of it is down a steep incline. When you are flying down that road at about 25 mph (40kph), your entire body is rattling all over the place. I am often just one bad hop from a really nasty accident. And when it's pouring down rain, it gets really freaky. For me, that's called having fun.


Culture | Health | Travel

Germany - Stuttgart Fruehlingfest

by Kimp 26. April 2013 03:50

Photo Blog

The German word, Fruehlingfest means Spring Festival.
Many towns in Germany have Fruehlingfest's and they come in 4 basic variations:

  1. A parade where most of the costumes are of a medieval nature.
  2. A small town festival, usually in the main square, that lasts an entire weekend with a few festival events, like concerts. The local businesses stay open late and are open on Sunday as well (which almost never occurs in Germany).
  3. It consists of a festival at a designated festival grounds. Usually with lots of rides and maybe a firework display on one night. These are generally kids and teenagers during the day, with the big crowds coming out at night.
  4. Consists of 3 along with a beer festival, which includes a few small beer tents up to several large beer tents.

Stuttgarter Fruehlingfest:
A Stuttgarter is a person from Stuttgart German.
The Stutgarter Fruehlingfest is number 4 with several large beer tents. Each tent seats around 3000 people with standing room of another 500 or so. It's considered Europes largest Fruehlingfest and it lasts for 3 weeks (every day). It's held at the "Cannstatter Wasen". Cannstatter translates to a person from "Bad Cannstatt" (town where the fairgrounds is located and Wasen translates to yard. However, if you type "Cannstatter Wasen" into google translate, it comes back with "Stuttgart Beer Festival". Some dudes from google must have been there at least once, but my guess is that there is a small yearly google pilgrimage there every year. The Bad in front of several towns in German means that in Roman times, there was a large bath house in that village. Many of those towns still have large mineral baths and spas in them.
No fest is authentic without a bierkonigin. A bierkonigin is a beer queen.

Here are the requirements of a beer queen:
In order to cast, the girl must be born and raised in Baden-Wuttemburg (the German state that Stuttgart is in) and be at least 18 years old. Apart from being beautiful she can only win the contest with a vast knowledge about brewing beer.

The beer queen competition is started 5 months in advance, with the following cuts. First a top ten, then a top five, then the crowning along with two Bierprinzessinnen (Beer Princesses), just before the Stuttgartar Volksfest (Stuttgart Peoples Festival in October).

Normally the beer queen is a one year title, but the judges where so impressed with 18 year old Lisa Schuler's beer knowledge, that they awarded her the title for 2 years. She becomes a paid representative of Stuttgart's oldest brewery and is also awarded a company car, which is a convertible Mini.

Fest Beer:
The normal beer at a German festival is a pilsner (pale colored beer). German pilsner runs around 5% alcohol by volume. The special festival beer, only brewed for the festival, is around 6.5% alcohol by volume. It only comes in one size (ein Mas or 1 Liter, about 1 quart). Festival beer may also be consumed in local bars but, only in ein Mas increments as well.

German drinking age:
The legal age for drinking beer or wine in Germany is 14 years old if they have their parent with them. At 16 they can legally drink beer or wine without a parent. At 18, hard liquor is added. The claim is that the Germans are teaching kids to drink responsibly. Even with the young age, I seldom see teenagers in bars because that's too expensive for them. I've seen them purchase beer at the grocery store, and often at festivals and events when, their parents give them some extra money to have a little bit of fun.

Most tents sell blocks of tables in 30 seat increments to businesses, hotels, and clubs. In addition to the seat, you get a ticket good for 1/2 of a very delicious rotisserie chicken (hot off of the skewer) and 3 special coins good for 1 liter of fest beer each. When these packages are distributed at face value, the cost comes  to about $30 per person for the night. Waiters and waitresses, wait on the tables and you are expected to give them 70 Euro Cents (about $1 US) for each item that they bring.

Even if you consume a lot of beer, 3 liters (about 3 quarts) is quite a bit. Plus, someone always either gives me one of their drink coins or buys me another liter of beer.

In the United States we often have designated drivers (a person who does not drink at all, drives and makes sure everyone makes it home safe). In Europe, most people take the train home after a long night of drinking. Since driving isn't an issue, they have a person called the sitter. The sitter can drink, but does not get trashed to the point of losing their bearings or whits.

Sitter or not, its a good idea to prep before the event. Basically, don't take anything, that will break your heart, if you lose it. Leave your wallet at home, just take an ID that's easy to replace if lost, a small amount of money and a cheap camera.  I also take my medical card.

This is the most important preparation of all. Print out your name, your address and the name and number of a friend who is not going to the fest,  in large letters on your computer (so it's easily legible). Take that and about 50 Euros ($80) and seal it inside of an envelope. Take the envelope and pin it to the inside of your shirt with 4 safety pins (very important). If you don't remember your name, or don't know where you live, or don't know where you are after some dude wakes you up from the side of the road. Just find a cab driver, rip that envelope out of the inside of your shirt, and hand it to him.

Many Germans (or Germans for a day), wear the traditional German attire. For men that's Lederhosen and for women it's a Dirndl.

Lederhosen consists of leather pants or knee length shorts, without a zipper. They have a wide flap in the front (often times decorated with embroidery). The flap buttons to two large buttons at the waist. It may also have additional buttons. The two large buttons at the waist are also used as suspender anchors. The suspenders often have a decorative cross brace that goes across the chest. The standard shirt is a thin and inexpensive long sleeve shirt with either a red and white or blue and white checkered pattern. The squares are about 1/4 in (1/2 cm) in size. The red and white shirt is called a "Wesslinger See" named after a lake in Bavaria where this shirt was often worn by locals. The blue and white shirt is called a "Paul".

Dirndl's come in many different flavors depending on the personality and age of woman who is wearing it.
Pretty much, you start with a dress that has a simple country pattern on it, that is floor length, that covers everything and alter it from there. Usually the colors are light and spring like.
The length can be anything from just above the floor to just above the knees.
The sleeves are always completely cut off.
The front of the dress has a large square cut out of the top of it. The width of the square is always very wide, but the height can vary from  the top of the breasts to the center of the breasts.
A white blouse is always worn under the dress. The blouse is usually short sleeves (mid bicep to elbow length) and has a square cut neck with ruffles. Like the dress, the square comes in many different heights, some showing no cleavage and some showing quite a lot of cleavage.  
The last touch is a decorative apron that usually starts at the waist (with a wide ribbon belt), and runs nearly the length of the dress.  Sometimes the apron is sewed into the dress.

Hats are optional, but usually only worn by men and come in two basic varieties.
The Bavarian farmer hat made of forest green or gray felt .  It has an oval shape with a medium brim. Slopes from the back to the front and is usually smashed in near the top of the front.
The Bavarian farmer dress hat made of regal green or bright green felt. Similar to the normal farmer hat, but has a firmer look. Has a large oval dimple in the top and always has a really long feather in it.

At a fest, hats come in just about any variety and are sometimes worn by women as well.

The Beer Tent Event:
I've spent the majority of my life being either the designated driver or the sitter. Sometimes, I was designated late in the game, because the designated driver or the sitter drank to much and weren't able to perform their duty. Tonight, I wanted to live on the other side of the coin, so I went solo, to completely unwind and not worry about anything, but myself.

The beer tents open around noon and have a band that plays, but the main event doesn't start until around 5:00 P.M. (1700).
At  5 P.M., the tables are cleared and people with purchased seats are free to claim them. Each table is numbered, but you still need a map to find it. At 5:30 P.M. any unfilled seat is open game for anybody. After that, the place fills up quick. To prevent overcrowding in the tent, they limit the number of people who can enter, by the number of people who have exited. The festival is over at midnight, and the band stops playing around 30 minutes before closing.

When it starts, many people are sitting down at the tables. Over the course of the evening more and more people start standing on their chairs. At the end, nearly everyone is standing on their chairs.

The band usually plays a 3 hour non-stop set. Then takes a 30 minute break, then back out for another 3 hour long set. The first set is usually a modern version of traditional German folk music. Accordion, Trombone, guitar, bass and drums. The second set is usually light rock.

Stuttgart is a working class city. Mercedes and Porsche are headquartered there. This festival has lots of German's at it. Many Germans from nearby come out on the weekends as well. It has a homey and non-touristy feel to it. But it does draw a few European tourists, who are coming here for the beer fest.

For some reason, where ever I go somewhere alone, some complete strangers in the crowd makes their way over and talk to me. I think its because I'm kind of quiet and am often on my own, even when I'm within a crowd of people. For the most part, today's Germans are very polite, conservative and social people. At least, most of the ones that I meet are.

The Russians:
At one point, I got down from my chair and headed toward the men's room. The passageways, were filled wall to wall with people and nobody was moving. The waiter's carry whistles and blow them to get people to move slightly to the side when they come through. I found myself with about 8 Russian dudes stuck behind me. I could tell they were Russian's, because of their accent and they are the only people in the world, who are louder then Americans when they're drunk.

We were in a serious people traffic jam and weren't moving at all. They were singing loudly just behind me. I stated getting into it, so I turned around and joined them. They were all in a single file line. The dude closest to me signals for me to turn back around, then starts gently pushing me forward. Singing loudly and marching, I started moving people to the side, making a hole big enough for all of the us to march through. I became the head of the Russian train. That was so fun. I ended up going past the restroom and marching all of the way around the tent before I made my exit at the restroom on the next pass and they continued on. That was a lot of fun, but I was glad to get back to just the normal crowd.

After Event:
By 11:00 P.M. I had consumed 5 liters (A gallon plus a quart) of fest beer and I wanted to leave before I had to fight the crowd.  I left the tent and progressed, not by walking, but by stumbling in a somewhat forwardly direction towards the closest train station.

On the way to the train station, I think I took a wrong turn and I passed a bar that was gearing up for an after festival, late night party. I got distracted, and decided to stop in. That place was just starting to get going, and its was looking like a whole new set of fun events were about to occur. I meet another complete stranger in their too.

After leaving the after party, I happened to pass a line of parked cabs. I really wasn't in good shape for taking the train. In the condition I was in, I could get on the wrong train, or get on the right train in the wrong direction, or get on the right train in the right direction but miss my stop. Plus, being on a crowded train with a bunch of drunks, presents all kinds of distractions, and no chance that any of them being able to help me, if I needed help. I could easily end up, way far away, when the trains stop running for the night.

I set my eyes on a cab driver and headed in his direction. The cab driver was a little freaky. His head was spinning all over the place and after it stopped spinning he had about 6 eyes.  Before I get the envelope out of my shirt, I give him the name of my road and ask him if he knows about where it is. He didn't, so I was talking to him a short while, while I was thinking about maybe giving him a landmark near there. He didn't sound German and I wasn't in the best of neighborhoods, so I decided to take the train after all.

As I'm trying to find the train station, people are coming up to me, and asking if I knew where the train station was. I would just say, "Well I don't know exactly, but that's where I want to go, and I'm heading this way because I have a feeling that it's this way.". For some reason, they didn't follow me. My feeling was right.  I studied the trains and thought for a while, before getting on one. After I got on, I concentrated on all of the stops and got off at the right stop. I nailed it.

Next Day:
The next day my right arm was killing me. I finally figured out, that it was from holding a heavy liter beer mug, full of beer, for 6 straight hours. Most of the time, I was standing on my chair, holding my beer and moving it back and forth in time with the music.

Then I was going through the fest photos that I had taken. After I left the tent, I had taken all kinds of really strange photos, that I have absolutely no recollection of taking. That was really freaky, cause I have never had temporary amnesia before.



Massachusetts - Boston Marathon

by Kimp 15. April 2013 04:47

Photo Blog

Marathon Qualification:
I have a friend named John who is an excellent long distance runner. His pace in sanctioned races is fast enough to qualify him for any major marathon. I believe that Boston's required a maximum 3:05 finishing time in the men's under 35 class to qualify.

If you don't qualify, you can still run the race, provided that you raise enough money for a sanctioned Boston charity. Boston's Marathon, raised about $11 Million dollars for local charity's this year. Even though John qualified, he still raised money for the Boston's Children's hospital. In 1989 Boston was the first marathon to start such a program and it has been a huge success. It all started in 1983 when a qualified Boston Marathon runner named Dave McGillivray raised money for the "Caroll Center for the Blind" where his brother worked. Dave ran that entire race blindfolded (escorted by two guides) and raised $10,000. In 1988, Dave became the race director for the Boston Marathon and also became the driving force behind the Boston Marathon charity fund raising campaign.
How I ended up in Boston:
Early in 2012, John told me that he was thinking about running the 2012 New York marathon. I told him that if he did, I would go to NY with him. John cancelled on that race, and I was glad because it was later postponed due to very severe weather. Earlier this year, John told me he was running the Boston Marathon, so I decided to go to that one instead. I attended college in Boston and  I know a lot about it, but have only been back twice to visit. It was nice seeing the many improvements since Boston was my stomping ground.
Boston Marathon History:
The first Marathon was run at the first Modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 1886. The head coach of the USA marathon team for that race, was from Boston, and was a member of the Boston Athletic Association. When he got back from the Olympics, the Boston Athletic Association decided to create the Boston Marathon and the first race was run in 1887 with 11 participants. It was the first non-Olympic Marathon in the world and has been held annually since. 
In 1887 the Marathon distance was around 24 miles, which matched the first Olympics length. The 26.2 miles that is run today was standardized in 1921. Up until 1921, the Olympics committee was allowed to alter the distance to fit a good course through their city. The 1920 Olympics was in London and the Olympic committee wanted to start at the King's house (so the King could witness the start) and finish in the Olympic stadium. In addition, they decided to complete a final lap around the track after entering the stadium. That distance ended up being the longest ever at 26.2 miles, and later became the standard for all Marathons. Olympic Marathon's are almost always the last event of the Olympics and typically end as part of, or just before the closing ceremonies. When the new standard was put in place, Boston modified it's course length to 26.2 miles.
The Boston Marathon is always run on Patriot's day (3rd Monday in April), which is a holiday in Massachusetts and Maine. It commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord which started the revolutionary war. There are usually around 25,000 participants in the Boston Marathon and it also holds that worlds record of 37,000, which was during it's centennial race. More then 500,000 spectators attend each year.
Before the race started, I was thinking about going up to the finish line very early and camping out, to ensure that I had a good place near the finish. But, when I was talking to one of the locals at the hotel where I was staying, they told me, that they thought the finish line was a VIP area.  So I decided not to do that.
Instead, I waited until a half hour after the race started, to scout out a decent vantage point. I found a really good one quick, but there was a stipulation. I saw some college kids in an apartment that had large windows around 5 feet above the main street 5 blocks from the finish line. I started negotiations by offering a 6 pack of their favorite beer, to give me a spot just big enough for my head, about the time I expected John to be coming through. The dude must have been a law student, cause he said, "You're going to need, 2 six packs of Heineken."  "Dude, If I bring back two six packs, I won't have any place to carry my beer !!!" was my lightening quick reply and plea for leniency. "Alright, we'll compensate with two of our skunk beers.". I said, "You got deal." and went off to find some beer.
Next problem, was that I wasn't in a place where there were any apparent beer stores. Luckily while I was scouting for one, I stumbled across an even better vantage point. Where Commonwealth Avenue and Massachusett's Avenue intersect, is a busy intersection, so there is a path in Commonwealth Avenue that goes under Mass Ave (for people who are not turning onto Mass Ave).  The last time I watched the Boston marathon was in 1979. At that time, they didn't use the express path, but now they do. It makes an additional small hill for the runners and is narrow. This makes for a great vantage point, because the runners are slowing a little, I have a high and clear path to the runners and am fairly close to them, as they crowd my side for the turn that is about to come up just after this point.
I was right up against the railing and it didn't cost me anything. Next to me was a police office and I could hear the police band chatter over her radio, "APB: 6 year old child lost in Kenmore Square, blond, approx ... feet tall and wearing ...". I seen that one coming. Lots of people watch from Kenmore Square. It's the last open area before the finish and most of the rowdy drinker's like to huddle up there. There's always an 11:00 a.m. Red Sock's game at Fenway park on Patriot's Day, near there, and after the game lets out (around 2:00 p.m.), those fans usually head to Kenmore square to cheer on the runners. That's when it really gets crazy.
As I am standing at the rail a young women was trying to squeeze into a small gap next to me. I used my weight to open up a hole big enough for her to move up. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were just chi-chatting about nothing. She was obviously a local with a lot of race knowledge and I noticed as the elite male runners were going by, that she seemed to know quite a few by name. I said to her, "Wow, you sure know a lot of good runners.". She told me, "Ahh, these are the people I run with all of the time." then went on to say that she is an avid runner who qualified to run the Boston Marathon, but was saving herself for the London Marathon next week. She continues with, "Right now I'm wishing I was running this one, but tomorrow I'll be glad that I didn't.". I am guessing, referring to desire vs the after pain.
A few minutes later John came by and I headed to the family meeting area, a few hundred yards from the finish line, to try to catch up with him.  I had a ticket on a plane to London in 4 hours, so I knew that I couldn't stay around too long. I was in Paris once, on the last day of the Tour de France, and I know how crazy it is trying to get to the airport on time.
I left the area around 30 minutes before the bomb's went off. As I was walking into the hotel, to pick up the bags I had left at the front desk, there was a distraught woman in the lobby, with a small baby, frantically crying. I had remembered her from earlier in the day. She and her husband had a new born with them and her husband was running the race, while she stayed at the hotel to care for the baby. She told me that bomb's had exploded near the finish line and she thought she had seen her husband get blown over by the blast on the TV replay. She said that he had his cell phone with him and she was not able to get a hold of him in the last 10 minutes of trying. I helped her to the front desk and explained the situation. They had some kind of marathon help line number that they called, and I was on my way.
When I got to the airport, there was a huge security line. They were obviously thoroughly checking everything. A person in the line behind me was an assistant to the London Marathon's director. The London Marathon was one week after Boston's this year. He was in Boston to observe and was in an apartment, near the finish line, getting ready to leave when the blasts went off. He saw some of the carnage from up close. When I saw him, he was on the phone rounding up the security team for a meeting as soon as he got back. He was telling me that they needed to rethink everything.
Later, I read that they had beefed up police presence by 40% and performed additional surveillance. They also issued black ribbons to all of the London Marathon runners and held 30 seconds of silence, in remembrance of Boston victim's, before the start of the London Marathon, and donated, to a Boston survivors fund, about $3 for every person who finished the London Marathon (about $100,000).
At the end of the day. Don't let Terrorism (domestic or foreign), stop you from living your life to the fullest.