Tag Archives: News

Bigly travel story of the week: Six really great walls

                                                                                                        John Tenniel Illustration

Really great walls are taking on a growing role in the plans of many travelers. There’s talk, of course, of a really great wall going up along the U.S. Mexico border. And some Canadians have long thought there ought to be one along their border, too. But really great walls, as we are about to show you, have long been a bigly part of the travel experience.

 

Really great wall of china
                                                                                          BigStock/Severin.stalder Photo

The Really Great Wall of China

Stretching for some 5,500 miles, the remains of the Really Great Wall of China is an early example of how a massive barrier, many feet thick and even more high, is about as effective at keeping people on one side or the other as a stern lecture from a vice-principal is at keeping high school boys from spiking the punch at a homecoming dance.

The problem was that the Really Great Wall of China had some 1,387 miles of gaps so porous that they were thought to be responsible for the enormous success of Chinese take out. No doubt the gaps were responsible, too, for the rise of such popular ice cream flavors as “Mongol Madness.”

The Really Great Wall of China was most successful as a massive infrastructure project. At its height, wall construction put millions of Chinese to work, whether they wished to be or not. Cost over-runs were a problem though, largely because developers had not yet mastered working with such modern building materials as bull excrement.

Today, the most visited part of the wall, because of its easy access to Beijing, is the Badaling section. According to many critics, though, after fighting the crowds and hassling with the taxi drivers, visitors often come away feeling that it ought to be called the Just Ok Wall of China.

 

Really Great Berlin Wall
                                                                                                      BigStock/Hanohki Photo

The Really Great Berlin Wall

From 1961 through 1989 the story surrounding the Really Great Berlin Wall, was, according to leaders of the East German government, the most bigly example of fake news ever reported.

With photos to back up their claim, East German leaders insisted that the Really Great Berlin Wall had in no way been a barrier to keep East Berlin citizens escaping to the West. Instead, they said, the 27-mile long, 11.8-foot high concrete structure had been a really great example — probably one of the greatest examples ever – of government support of the arts.

The wall was meant to be a public venue on which Berlin’s young artists — really great young artists — could showcase their talent through such time-honored media as spray paint.

The extent to which the Berlin government was willing to encourage such artistic expression was made evident, officials said, by the 20 bunkers, 302 guard towers, and uncounted other measures erected to safeguard the artists against interference by fascist and other anti-socialist Western elements.

The Really Great Berlin Wall was demolished in 1990. But commemorative pieces are still for sale. In fact, some 3.6 tons of the original 2.5 tons of concrete used in the construction can currently be purchased on e-Bay.

 

Humpty Dumpty Really great wall
                                                                                                      John Tenniel Illustration

Humpty Dumpty’s Really Great Wall 

Although parts of Humpty Dumpty’s Really Great Wall may still exist, the inspiration for the classic English nursery rhyme is a matter of dispute.

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, Humpty is depicted as an egg. Or — a reader could infer — someone with an ego as fragile as an egg.

In other interpretations, the clearly wobbly character has been a stand-in for any number of kings and other powerful public figures who, because of their overreach, end up taking such a great fall that not even all their horses and all their political advisors can put them together again.

There’s even an interpretation that holds wide sway, especially among pro-growth supporters, that Humpty Dumpty was a cannon that sat atop the wall surrounding the town of Colchester, England, during the English Civil War of 1642-51. Part of the wall still exists, but the story is that return fire from opposing forces so undermined its foundation that without sufficient infrastructure-funding most of it eventually came tumbling down.

One thing most interpreters agree on, though, is that the poem stands as a cautionary tale about the disaster that can befall anyone who uses a really great wall as a podium from which to draw attention to themselves.

 

Really Great Wall Street occupy
                                                                                             BigStock/Chris Cintron Photo

The Really Great Wall Street

Among Americans who don’t get their news from traditional outlets, Wall Street is perhaps best known for its recent history of standing up to occupiers and other foreigners.

What many people don’t know, however, is that Wall Street is actually named after a really great wall, one built to keep out pirates, Native Americans, non-European Union members and, according to some sources, radical Islamic terrorists.

The original wall was a wooden palisade built at the south end of Manhattan by the Dutch in the 1600’s. Fortunately for much of America’s current population, it did not serve as a barrier for immigrants of British stock, who were able to get visa waivers.

 

Really Great Wall Mart parking lot view.
                                                                                    Wiki.southpark.cc.com Illustration

The Really Great Wall-Mart

Wall-Mart is a really great American-owned retail store featured in an episode of the public affairs program South Park. The episode looks at what could happen in America if addiction treatment is not part of basic health care coverage.

The premise of the episode is that almost everyone in South Park is so addicted to Wall-Mart’s bargain prices that they stop shopping at other South Park businesses, putting the town into such a recessionary spiral that they are desperate to try anything that might make it really great again.

What they try is listening to a politician who promises that under his winning direction they will become the next state to benefit greatly from the legalization of marijuana. Too late, though, even the politician’s most ardent South Park supporters are faced with the reality that the town is in Colorado, where marijuana has already been legal for several years.

 

BobCarriesOn editor-in-chief Bob Payne sits on the wall on a great many issues.

 

Longest flights ranked by who sits next to you

 

Airlines, for reasons most people find incomprehensible, like to boast of record-setting non-stop flights, ranked by hours in the air. The longest flights are currently claimed to be around 17 hours, although as every passenger knows, the real duration of a flight is determined by who sits next to you. The very longest flights include those on which your seatmate is:

Positive you said you would shut the oven off.

Struggling with issues of bladder control.

Louder than an accompanying child.

Returning from a wedding, with photos.

Demonstrably capable of reciting pi to 3,764 places.

Attempting to assemble an unidentifiable electronic device.

Recently retired, from sumo wrestling.

Watching an X-rated movie, you’ve already seen.

Shackled, but not gagged.

Dead.

5 coolest places in America: The Lawsuit

We learned today that BobCarriesOn.com is facing a lawsuit by an irate reader who blames us for the severe frostbite he suffered while visiting, allegedly at our recommendation, one of the places featured in a story we recently ran, “The 5 coolest places in America.”

The reader maintains the story should have warned that in none of the places were open-toed sandals appropriate winter footwear. We maintain that he, like far too many Internet users, must have read no further than the headline.

If you missed the story, below are the places we mentioned. Before making plans to visit any of them, please read the descriptions carefully.

Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska

A work settlement during the construction of the Alaska Pipeline, the now abandoned Prospect Creek Camp holds the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States: -80 degrees F, on January 21, 1971. Tourist attractions include the pipeline’s Pump Station 5, two still-fluttering airstrip windsocks, and what is believed to be one of the largest collections of pre-Internet pornography ever assembled.

Rogers Pass, Montana

Located in a remote wilderness area on the Continental Divide, Rogers Pass holds the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in the lower 48 states: -70 degrees F, on January 20, 1954. Tourist attractions include one of the largest remaining concentrations of grizzly bears in the lower 48, and various garments belonging to previous visitors who attempted to outrun them.

Peter Sinks, Utah

A basin-shaped natural depression allegedly named for a man who would have done well to look elsewhere for a homestead site, Peter Sinks holds the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in Utah: -69.3 degrees F, on February 1, 1985. Tourist attractions include various locations where it is speculated the would-be homesteader may have succumbed to the elements during his first and only winter at the Sinks.

Riverside Ranger Station, Montana

Pay attention here, because the town of Riverside, Wyoming, is sometimes listed as holding the record for the coldest temperature every recorded in Wyoming: -66 degrees F, on February 9, 1933. But according to the weather website wunderground.com, that temperature was actually recorded at the now non-existent Riverside Ranger Station, which in 1933 was located where the town of West Yellowstone, Montana, now stands. Tourist attractions in the Wyoming town, which has a population of 53, include anybody who can give directions to West Yellowstone, a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, eight hours away.

Maybell, Colorado

Vail and Steamboat may have their après ski scenes, but the coolest place in Colorado is Maybell, population 72, which is home to the lowest temperature ever recorded in the state: −61 degrees F, on February 1, 1985. Tourist attractions include the restaurant, the gas station, the general store, and, during the spring, a depth of horse poop today found in few other American communities.

Unsettling speculation about giant rubber ducks

 

The appearance of an increasing number of giant yellow rubber ducks at seaports around the world is raising concern that the seemingly harmless inflatable creations may in fact be aquatic Trojan Horses.

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but is six stories high, then it is probably up to no good,” said university researcher Bob Payne, who has been pursuing quack theories since the early 1990’s, when a ship dumped 28,000 rubber ducks and other bathtub toys into the North Pacific.

At the time, the massive release of so many rubber ducks was labeled an accident. (For details, read Moby-Duck, by Donovan Hohn.) But Payne says he began to suspect otherwise when giant versions of the yellow bath toys started to appear at ports worldwide, from Hong Kong to Los Angeles to Sao Palo to Sydney.

“It’s clear somebody or something is using the ducks to get past security in the same way the Greeks once used a wooden horse and now employ salads,” said Payne.

Although the Chinese, who lead the world in the development of quack technology, would seem the likely culprits, Payne said he believes the invasive tactics might represent something much more sinister.

“My guess is giant space aliens, bright-yellow, with orange-beaks, looking for a water planet where no one seems to be in charge,” Payne said.

What they are smuggling in, he said, are tens of thousands of tiny clones of themselves.

“And if you need proof of how successful they have been, just check out the rubber duck 12-pack on sale at Walmart.”

Big Stock Photo

 

Airlines mull adding duct tape to amenities kits

A recent incident involving an unruly man who was duct taped to his seat by fellow air passengers has rekindled the ongoing argument over whether airlines should include duct tape in business and first class amenities kits.

“Considering the many other uses passengers already find for duct tape on board, offering it in the kits is clearly a cost-efficient means of getting our most valuable customers to stick with us,” said Bob Payne, chairman of the Airline Industry Duct Tape Advisory Panel.

Payne said duct tape has long been known for its usefulness in substituting for belts and other accessories passengers may have forgotten at security, taping infants to the bulkheads during takeoff and landing, and repairing cracks in wings and tail sections.

“When a wing comes loose, we all know from experience that there’s nothing you’d rather have in your hand, with the possible exception of a parachute rip cord, than a fresh roll of duct tape,” Payne said.

Security officials note that this latest application is especially welcome because the opportunity for group response has allowed passengers to go from fearing there might be someone on board who needs to be subdued to looking forward to it.

Critics argue, though, that having quantities of duct tape freely available can lead to the kind of abuse that happens all too often when, for instance, a passenger tapes shut the mouth of an adult or child  seat mate simply because of differing political views. It’s the kind of thing, they say, that can make the dispensing of the amenities kits a constitutional issue.

There is also the question of offering a safety enhancement that is not equally accessible to all on board. Industry observers, however,  see that as a relatively minor issue, and one readily addressed by making the tape available to coach passengers for $25 for the first roll and $35 for each additional roll.

Travel humor writer Bob Payne recently used duct tape to re-attach the tail to his neighbor’s cat.

 

Bigstock photo.

Somebody went to the Vatican and all I got was this lousy papal dispensation

With a recession-pinched Vatican City short of ready cash and looking for ways to get tourists to contribute directly to the restoration of the famed Bernini colonnade surrounding St. Peter’s Square, it was only a matter of time before someone thought of t-shirts.

“We were already selling commemorative stamps, but hardly anyone uses stamps anymore, so we decided to try something our target audience would find more practical and could have a little fun with,” said Monsignor Bob Payne, who heads up all fundraising efforts for the Catholic Church that the Pope would rather not know about.

Payne said that after Rome saw how successful t-shirts were in the promotion of the Hard Rock Cafe brand, they thought they’d be a natural for the Vatican, especially because the church’s prohibition against bare shoulders in St. Peter’s Basilica means that visitors are always open to the idea of purchasing a cover-up, and are in no position to haggle over price.

Sales so far have been brisk, the monsignor said, with some of the best-selling ecclesiastically-inspired messages including these:

I rode the Papal bull.

What do you think of these eggs, Benedict?

Who are all these kids, and why do they keep calling me father?

Women should have the right to choose, the Pope.

It’s funnier in Latin.

Pray for beer.

Chastity, poverty, obedience? Where’s the train station?

The Catholic church is cautiously optimistic about the fund-raising potential of the t-shirt program, but wants to move carefully, Payne said.

“You may remember how well our “Wash away your sins with Pope-On-A-Rope” campaign started out and what a disaster that proved,” Payne said.

Although still available commercially, the figure of the Pope molded into a bar of soap that hangs from a string in the bathroom turned out to produce an extremely litigious reaction among people who were uncomfortable with the image of themselves sharing a shower with a cleric.

“We are still in the courts over that one,” Payne said.

Travel humor writer Bob Payne serves as a monsignor at the Vatican on weekends.

Bigstock photo.