Afghanistan Adventure Tours? You bet!

On my twitter account @BobCarriesOn I recently wrote:

Travel company to offer epic Afghanistan adventure tour in footsteps of guy who sweeps area for landmines

I assumed that anyone who read it would know I was kidding, in part because I am kidding just about every time I Tweet something, or post on Facebook or Google+ or write for this blog, which is titled, helpfully, I would like to think: Bob Carries On – Bob Payne’s Travel Humor.

At least one reader, however, took me seriously enough, it seems, to ask for a link to the travel company.

Perhaps the reader was a regular follower, and was paying me back in kind.  Or perhaps he is a more mild-mannered iteration of those readers who have demanded, with a sense of outrage and challenge, that I produce my sources.  Tweets/Posts they have railed against include:

Fashion Week Cruise ends in disaster when ship sinks but passengers refuse to wear off-the-rack life jackets

Claim of discovering previously un-contacted Amazon tribe dismissed after some tribe members found to have Wi-Fi.

To enhance on-board experience, first North Korean cruise ship considers installing working toilets.

In victory for environmentalists, Serengeti highway plans scrapped; subway line to be built instead.

In effort to get passengers to pay more attention to lifeboat drill, cruise line dresses crew as Somali pirates.

It’s only coincidence, I am sure, that the majority of these have come from people one might likely encounter on a cruise ship. I do, however, like to think of Bob Carries On as a full-service site, so in that spirit I have included a link for readers interested in Afghan Adventure Travel.

Presidential debate makes clear the importance of hotel pillow menus

After watching the presidential debates, about the only thing most observers could agree on was that the candidates needed a good night’s sleep. To help with that, one hotel, New York City’s The Benjamin, has added a set of presidential selections to their pillow menu. Chosen by the Benjamin’s  Sleep Concierge, they are designed specifically for the Democratic and Republican hopefuls, but will also be available to hotel guests through election night, although the hotel has added a disclaimer that they will not be responsible for any politically inspired pillow fights.

Barack Obama’s selection, the environmentally friendly Pillo1 (TM) , is designed for optimal alignment no matter where stress might be coming from, while Mitt Romney’s, The Boomerang, is constructed to provide maximum support of any position and protection against any remarks he makes that might come back to cause him trouble.

While fully endorses any effort that has the potential to cause some ruckus in a hotel bed chamber, we feel The Benjamin has not gone far enough. There should be a selection of pillows that commemorate not only the current candidates but some of our most notable past presidents, as well. A few of those presidents, and their pillows, might include:

George Washington — The Executive Traveler — Designed in honor of a president known for sleeping just about everywhere, this compact model can be easily concealed beneath a greatcoat when checking out, then produced again when a quick nap is in order during chilly night-time crossings of the Delaware.

Abraham Lincoln — Honestly, Abe — He was the great Emancipator, and a wit to boot, but to truly reflect this president you’d want a pillow made of sturdy, inexpensive materials capable of standing up well to hotel guests who act like they were brought up in a log cabin.

Herbert Hoover — One Hundred Percent, All Natural, Feather Filled — As the president who famously promised “a chicken in every pot,” it is only right that Hoover be remembered with a pillow that could have made good use of all the chicken feathers his policy produced.

Franklin Roosevelt — No Pest Pillow — A fearless leader whose ringing words helped get the nation through difficult times, FDR would be happy to know the specially-treated pillow named for him means that no hotelier should ever have to say, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And bed bugs.”

Bill Clinton — Tagged for Evidence — Ideal for recalling a president who never quite understood that when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed “Four Score” he wasn’t bragging about the number of illicit relationships he’d had in the Oval Office.

Chickens, cattle, pigs, extremely agitated over testing of airline bio-fuels based on animal fat

As airlines look for ways to reduce the environmental impact of jet fuel, livestock around the world are becoming increasingly concerned that they may be the answer.

“We knew pigs would eventually fly,” an activist for the affected animals said. “But we never imagined it would be in the fuel tank of an Airbus.”

In fact, animal-fat fired jet engines are already a reality.  Some airlines, aiming to reduce their carbon footprint by up to ten percent, have conducted experimental flights using bio-fuels based on the fatty waste of meat and poultry production.

“With the exception of a higher than usual number of complaints about chicken feathers in the cabin, passengers haven’t even noticed,” one airline spokesman said.

But the animals have certainly been paying attention. Across a broad political spectrum, they are beginning to fight back. Some have joined the ranks of those campaigning for increased use of wind and solar energy, while others have been seen in the halls of Congress on behalf of the coal and oil industries.

A particularly bellicose group of bulls, who between them probably weigh in with enough lard to get a 767 from New York to Los Angeles, have even suggested looking farther down the food chain, toward algae “and other pond scum,” which, it might be noted, have excellent bio-fuel potential but relatively little lobbying power.

There have been some upsides to the concern animals are feeling
over the bio-fuel issue, among them a new willingness to shed excess body fat by attending aerobics classes on a  more regular basis.

“We are helping ourselves, and the petro-chemical companies, which is a win-win, from my point of view,” said a relatively trim-looking porker who was grunting his way through a workout on an elliptical trainer at a fashionable gym on New York’s Upper East Side.

The only affected animals who have showed no concern are the sheep, who throughout the crisis have acted like sheep, some even continuing to fly coach.

Not exactly Everest — a climber’s guide to Mount Monadnock

Although I’ve hiked all over the world, on occasion for weeks at a time, I’ve never been much of a climber, a fall off a cliff when I was a child probably having something to do with it. In fact, as much as I’ve done in one go may have been New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock, which when I lived in Boston I climbed once a year to test my general level of fitness by how long it took me to reach the top, and remained entirely unembarrassed that someone had once summited in a snow mobile.  Except for a few cultural references, nothing about the story that follows has changed from when I wrote it in 1991. Nor has Mount Monadnock changed much, either. The only difference is my inability to remember where it was published. The Boston Globe, possibly, or Outside magazine. Anybody?

At 3,165 feet, Mount Monadnock, in the southwest corner of New Hampshire, is not exactly the Mount Everest of America. In fact, it’s not even the Mount Everest of New Hampshire. Dozens of peaks in that state are higher. And its balding dome is so easily accessibly by just about all but the bed-ridden that an estimated 125,000 people a year scale it, earning it the dubious distinction of being the most climbed mountain in America. But to ignore Monadnock in favor of more lofty, less democratic, peaks is as serious an omission as to claim an understanding of the performing arts in America without being able to describe a favorite scene from the Jackass reality series.

Climb any of the peaks in New Hampshire’s justly famous White Mountains and what you can see, for the most part, are other peaks. Climb Mount Monadnock, which stands isolated like a naughty boy in the corner of a schoolroom, and what you can see is just about all of New England. That’s partly why it’s listed in the National Register of Natural Landmarks. And that’s partly why it’s always gotten such good press, even from such literary heavies as Thoreau and Emerson, who promoted it almost as enthusiastically as that little green lizard promotes Geico.

Because downtown Boston is only about 60 miles away,  and because no camping is allowed on the mountain except at the state park campground at its base, climbing Monadnock is for most people a day trip. You can climb one of the major trails to the summit, claim you can see everything from the Hancock Tower in Boston to the pyramids in Egypt, then climb down the same way you came up. It takes a couple of hours. And if you are like a lot of other people, the chief joy you’ll get out of it, other than the view, is the descent, which on a pleasant Saturday or Sunday in the spring or fall can give you several thousand opportunities to answer condescendingly when asked by the huffing masses still on the way up how much farther it is to the top.
To turn Monadnock into a climbing adventure, give it the weekend it deserves. Drive up early in the morning from Boston or spend the night at one of the Monadnock Region’s campgrounds or country inns. Hike up Monadnock’s wooded slopes to its bare-rock summit, then down the other side to another campground or inn. The next day, hike your way back, following the network of little-used secondary and connecting trails. Along that route you will still occasionally see other hikers off in the distance, streaming along the main trails like ants after sugar. But about the only ones you’ll come face to face with are the few fellow seekers of the road less taken, and the few (slightly more numerous than the former group) who are lost. In the case of those who are lost, you can experience the enormous pleasure of becoming a hero simply by sending somebody in a direction you yourself don’t intend to go.

You can climb Mount Monadnock any time of the year. But even during the most popular times, spring and fall, you’ve got to keep an eye on the weather. Storms can make up quickly, and the dangers of exposure, especially on the bare rock of the summit, are real. Come prepared to dress like Santa.

Monadnock is certainly not Everest. It doesn’t allow you the experiences that belong only to the mountain climbing elite —  fighting altitude sickness, dangling by your pitons above eternity, and posing for gear ads. But its a pretty good bet that few superstars of climbing, while standing at a mountain’s summit, have ever brought joy to a trio of ill-prepared but not unattractive young ladies simply by offering them the gift of bottled water.

Feeling pressure of new tourism realities, Caribbean nations begin teaching parrots to speak Chinese

With reports showing that the Chinese now rank among the world’s most frequently traveled and biggest spending tourists, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CT0) has announced a bold new initiative aimed at capturing a lucrative share of that market. Nations throughout the Caribbean have begun teaching parrots the Chinese for such useful phrases as “Polly want a spring roll?”

“This has the potential to be even more successful than our campaign to attract cruise ship visitors,” said a CTO spokesperson during an unveiling ceremony which was marred only slightly when one of the parrots on display performed an act of amputation on the Prime Minister of Barbados, who had been warned not to stick his finger in the cage.

“As studies show, the Chinese far outspend cruise ship visitors,” the spokesperson said, adding that so did parrots, for that matter.

Despite its potential for success, early testing of the program has indicated there are a number of challenges to overcome, mostly relating to cultural misunderstandings.

“The major difficulty,” the spokesperson said, “has been getting the Chinese to accept that the parrots are not being offered as a menu item.”

How do you know if a restaurant serves tipic food?

You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, especially now that so many books are delivered electronically, which means they don’t actually have covers. But when looking for typical food in a foreign country, you can judge a restaurant by the sign out front.  Here’s an example of how it works in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon:

The grammatical correctness and lack of misspellings suggests the proprietors of this restaurant know too much about English to be truly well versed in the local cuisine. Look for owners who probably spent time in Britain or the U.S., and look elsewhere for an authentic meal.






A non-standard word order (to the English ear) and a word that, while understandable, may not appear in any language, is a step in the right direction, especially if there are no photos of the food posted out front.







Promising a local experience in the language of the country is a very positive sign, although the fact that they have to label it typical at all might give you some pause for thought. This does require the ability to recognize the word for food in the local language – or that a group of tables with place-setting on them signify a restaurant.





The real find, of course, is a restaurant with no sign out front, just a hand-written menu taped to the window – even if one of the menu items appears to be a hamburger.









Which brings us to what in just about everywhere in the world, is the most typical food of all.


Bob Payne's travel news and advice since before Columbus landed at Plymouth Rock.

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