A Night in Iceland: The Sound of Silence 

It’s 10:44pm, do you know where your night is?

Well, worse shit has happened on trips with Jonica Xtemperaneous. Sure, in Legoland and Hamburg I suffered two days of relentless, tear-filled allergies during which I was cranky as fuck. I was finally cured by typical over-the-counter allergy medicine bought at the only open Apotheke (pharmacy) in Hamburg on a Sunday evening. This was after scouring several square miles of the ‘burg at the advice of the person working the counter at Generator Hostel. (Hint: it’s in the fucking giant train station in the center of the city just across from the hostel!) Now Jonica has got some sort of cold that’s causing her face to leak precious bodily fluids while sapping her energy.

Two years ago there was the infamous, perilous perengrinations of the #hantamouse2013 road trip and all the illness it wrought, real or psychosomatic. Surely the deer mouse bedding in the car after camping in the Grand Canyon, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks and Red Woods State Park, as cute as it was, wanted us to die by breathing in its fecal and urine spores filled with the deadly virus. Now–Iceland–allergies and a nasty cold? We can manage this. Right?

Today’s excursion was an all-day entry we paid for The Blue Lagoon Spa, a unique attraction heated by geothermal energy and filled with white silica that will bond itself to hair, stiffening it if conditioner isn’t used to coat one’s hair first. We managed two hours before getting too hot and hungry. I was wiped out from the previous night’s sociological studies of Reykjavik’s night life on their national holiday celebrating their independence from Danish rule, abolished in 1944. I wasn’t going to argue about skipping out for a nap, a discussion had only after partially consuming what our respective diets allowed, Jonica vegan, me akin to “paleo plus”. This late decision was unfortunate because we could have eaten better food and not paid locked-in tourist attraction prices if we’d realized we were ready for the 40-minute coach ride back into the city.

Welcome to Silica Park

Blue Lagoon Waters flow all around the thermals

Heat processing stations in the distance

Some walls in the spa are made of these

For second lunch I try currywurst and I learn I have not been missing out

Tonight I find myself selecting dinner from the local Reykjavík convenience store, a prepackaged delight known as Sweet Chili Kjùklinguy Med Wasabihnetum, or Sweet Chili Chicken with Wasabi Nuts. I’ve finally pulled myself out of bed for this pre-packaged food. Surprisingly it was tasty and satisfying and I specifically bought the one sans the syrupy chili sauce I saw in the other package. I’ve eaten enough sugary crap to wrack my innards on this trip. I choose well.

My point is that European folks have a lot of lifestyle similarities as the U.S. folk. While I could not bring myself to eat at French (or any) McDonald’s, their quarter pounder is indeed a “Royal with cheese”, confirmed visually. (Thanks Quentin Tarantino.) And here in Iceland is a version of 7-11, called 10-11, and my local option says 24/7 for its hours. I brought my own canvas big, which the clerk appreciated, proudly telling me about improvements in Icelandic recycling, which is encouraged by monetary rewards, like in some states.  He is cute.

With Summer Solstice mere days away, this is how light it is at 10:44 pm

On the topic of convenience stores in Europe, 7-11 in Denmark is truckloads nicer than the U.S. version. At almost any American 7-11,  people hang out in front of the store, or inside, because apparently U.S. suburbs are shit at creating public spaces in which people are comfortable gathering (and occasionally begging for money). Plus, one doesn’t enter an American 7-11 and find shelves of paleo options. That was odd and refreshing.

Meanwhile back in present moment Reykjavík, my meal is concluded, entertainment by Simon and Garfunkel, which seemed a necessary aural accompaniment for my mood. I tried recording some app-based voice messages for a few folks who claim I have a great phone sex voice, but was shushed by my sickly, rainbow-haired companion. I hope she feels better in the morning. Driving this island in a rental car won’t be as much fun alone… I am not a rock, though this is an island.

Even walking rainbows can fall ill

Don’t forget to find me on Instagram as Hardtravelinghero!


the Prodigal Son Returns from Perilous Peregrinations

After nearly a month, I’ve anxiously returned from adventure and misadventure with Ms. Adventure herself. And this is how I looked when the Long Island Railroad returned me to what is my starting point and final destination, not that I looked much less wild at the start.

color photo of the author of this site

Speaking of Final Destination, I seriously thought some of the stops on this trip were going to include ridiculously elaborate deaths after escaping fate several times. I’m truly worried about the swords mounted over the bathtub with the bottle of acid in the window sill, next to the great white jaws mounted on the front of the roller coaster in the backyard that ends at the bathroom window. But home or not, death cannot be denied.

So, now the trick is to present these stories in an engaging and timely fashion…

Photo by Joseph, taken with a Kodak C875, enhanced by me with Picasa lighting and tuning fixes. I realized I look a bit like Kraven the Hunter from Kraven’s Last Hunt. Awesome.

The Empire Passport: Connetquot River State Park Preserve

Located off Sunrise Highway, or New York State Route 27, in Oakdale, near the south shore of Long Island, is the entrance to Connetquot River State Park Preserve. The slogan, “A bit of Long Island, the way it used to be,” does not lie as our photo-journey will show you the natural beauty of Long Island that hasn’t been blighted by sprawling suburbs and strip mall complexes.

This day’s journey was photographed by Joe N. and myself, though mostly by Joe N.

Connetquot State Park’s trails contain many signs indicating the area’s rich heritage.

The old tavern from the 1820s now houses the museum and gift shop. Perhaps reopening the building as a tavern would bring more money into maintaining the park.

The history of The Main House explained:

Somehow we’d missed the trail head and subjected ourselves to paved roadway, setting a shitty tone for the start of the afternoon’s journey into the wild. In garish, mismatched colors, our very own Hardtravelinghero passes beneath a wooden bat house that appeared to be empty. Where have all the bats gone? Is pollution killing these wonderful insectivores? If so, what can we do to reverse this ecological catastrophe?

The woods hold secrets indeed, as it’s difficult to tell some 35 years ago these woods were burned to a cinder during a natural part of the life cycle of a forest. The foliage has since regrown, life abounding where once the orange flames of death crackled and screamed for the rebirth of new life, fresh woods, the mythological phoenix acting its natural role.

Joe contemplates deeply while gazing into the crystal waters what run below his feet, When will the drought end? This is Joe’s metaphorical drought.

Like the Argonath of Middle Earth, Joe stands vigilant over the fish hatchery waters, wary of the ilk of Mordor.

Dragonflies hunt larval prey and make sweet love along the water’s edge, displaying bodies of the deepest greens, blues, and golds.

Beautiful tendrils of green lazily flow with the current, stretching downstream and absorbing the life-force of the sun’s rays.

Like the living, the shadow people absorb the tranquility of the endless waters, only without a care for ticks and their bacterial passengers carrying Lyme disease.

[Chattering sounds] Yours truly climbs into the loving arms of trees every chance he gets.

Like a Predator, only less stealthy, I perch in trees imaging my shoulder laser blasting my future trophies. “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Bwwwzap!

Sometimes the world makes more sense in black and white.

I could end up stinking like river, but why let that stop me? There’s no fun without risk, after all.

The infinite road is bordered by marshlands on both sides, with frogs and black snakes of some kind scuttering about below the detritus of trees and the broad green leaves of marsh-dwelling plant-life.

Near the meadow along the Greenbelt trail that leads to the parking lot, a herd of deer traverse through the deep-shadowed woods into the bright light of the sun to reenergize as they graze.

Deer will respond to the whistles of humans trying to photograph them. Yes, I am a cheat.

Antlered deer look on, observing signs of potential danger before dipping their heads into the grass to feed again.

In darkness lay mysteries unfathomable to human kind. What journey awaits in those woods as the sun begins to set and light gives way to the void?

The Empire Passport grants purchasers access to all New York State Parks for an annual fee of $65.00. I mean to get my money’s worth before the pass expires in March of 2013 and hope to visit all 26 parks on Long Island before the summer is through.

Kayak Adventure on Long Island’s Treacherous Nissaquogue River

The fluid chaos of the water's surface captured.

The fluid blue chaos of the water’s surface ripples before our eyes as clouds’ scant reflections frost the edges of the uncontainable eternal abyss.

The fluid chaos of the water's surface captured.

Our serene journey begins at Paul T. Given County Park in Smithtown, New York, just off New York State Route 25. Click on the link to view a Google Map of the starting point of this river trek and follow us down the river with a bird’s-eye view. Coming from the west, you know you’re almost there when you pass the Smithtown Bull, a favorite roadside attraction of mine since I was a small child.

For $50.00, paddle a single kayak, or for another $10.00, paddle with a friend in a double, rentals available from Nissequogue River Canoe and Kayak Rentals. This beautifully relaxing journey was proposed and researched by a good friend I met on Couchsurfing,org, a fellow Huntingtonian.

Not knowing the parameters of the day, I pack only my camera and two spare batteries in a gallon-size storage bag, foregoing even hand lotion I’ll wish I had as I feel my cuticles dry out. Damn, I’m such a priss. At the entry to the river we see people with coolers and plenty of gear, though no large coolers or alcohol are allowed on kayaks or canoes. Food would’ve been a wonderful addition to the trek.

We depart the river’s head around 11:30 and were told we must arrive at the landing in King’s Park by half three, giving us four hours to meander the 5.5 mile waterway. Immediately we must duck beneath Jericho Turnpike before emerging into a terrific wonderland of verdant beauty, as if we’re waking up in Oz.

Two young women kayaking beneath the overpass of New York State Route 25, also known as Jericho Turnpike

The river is peaceful, its surface frequently calm, so much so that a three-legged beast can play the part of masthead on a kayak without falling into the shallow waters, the riverbed never more then four feet down, sometimes less than a foot in depth. How well does a tripod canine swim?

Paddling upriver, two single kayakers breeze by, a three-legged dog acts as a masthead

Lissen, kids: the hardtravelinghero takes skin cancer seriously (most of the time) and so wears sunblock (SPF 30 or higher), a brimmed hat, and long sleeves to protect himself from the sun’s maleficence.

The hardtravelinghero looks back and smiles at his co-kayaker.

The excursion organizer’s paddle and gaze gently penetrate the stillness of the water’s surface. He’s a man of many spectacles, never one to disappoint the ladies in the department of fashionable eye wear. Our female companions have yet to catch up to the might of two strongmen paddling away.

The excursion's organizer paddle and gaze gently penetrate the stillness of the water's surface

To each side are paths through reeds that wind through the marshy shores as Glasses and I decide to explore one of these until we get to the point where there’s no turning room and barely and depth below our stealthy craft.

I hope to never ride this river with someone named Lorin. Graffiti visible as we pass under Landing Avenue.

Graffiti under a roadway overpass reads: Marry me Lorin in red-framed white letters

Unfortunately nothing in this photo gives scale to the scaly behemoth lurking just below the surface. The snapping beast was at least 20-inches wide and warning signs suggested the danger of of lost fingers.

Barely visible, a giant snapping turtle clings to the side of a dock

A tiny, tan, dead crab rests on my finger’s tip, paddles and boats are out of focus in the background offering amazing contrasts of color and clarity.

A tiny dead crab rests on my finger's tip, paddles and boats are out of focus in the background

Being on the Nissequogue feels like…somewhere else. Someplace…not Long Island, yet it is Long Island. With some of my Couchsurfing friends it feels like…not Long Island, but it is Long Island and I’ve met some spiritual brothers and sisters and there are moments I’m in love with this place and the possibilities of these friendships, however temporary our time together. It feels like we’ll always be in each others hearts and minds, on this river and on the river of time. It flows and we flow, sometimes together, sometimes smoothly and other times in chaos. And it feels like…life.

Shades of green trres and grasses on the far shore, the blue of the river extends to the photo's midground

A beachhead is formed as we storm the shore seeking places to relieve ourselves. Dozens and dozens of fiddler crabs flee to circular burrows in the mud and rocks.

A beachhead is formed as we storm the shore seeking places to relieve ourselves

Some of the crustaceans flee too slowly to escape the grasp of the titan humans in a reversal of some Ray Harryhausen movie. The eight-legged freaks of nature vary in size from the size of a small pea to this monster pictured below. They seem to only pinch when two are put into close proximity within closed human hands, as my one companion found out. Of course I took a shitty picture in which the hand is in focus, but the crab is not. Eye stalks! I want detailed eye stalks! Next time, eye stalks. Next time…

A fiddler crap in the palm of a hand

While M and I get crabs, our companions kayak to clearer waters and swim. Along the muddy islands of tall grass are tons of bivalves, mussels among them.  Kayaking partner’s switched, we continue downriver and come upon the King’s Park Psychiatric Center, imposing yet majestic, haunted by the ghosts of many, their psychic pain a residue in the halls and tunnels, perhaps in the incinerator and its companion smokestack.

King's Park Psychiatric Center taken at a distance from on the river

After passing the psychiatric center we can see the river’s mouth in the distance, just past Short Beach, near the David Weld Sanctuary. With an hour-and-a-half to spare, I’m in no rush to reach the landing near the Bluff at King’s Park, but my accompaniment seems ready to breach the shore before the Bluffs and reluctantly I paddle along, trying to straighten us out as we keep listing to the left as we pass amongst anchored boats. We land and wait in the parking lot for the bus to drive us back to our cars as we review pictures. As we watch video on M’s phone, the story of how M and her friend were making a Steve Irwin-esque documentary is recounted and the video tranquil until I come along and yell, “Row, bitch!” pretending to be speaking on behalf of M, who, from my perspective, seemed to be forcing her friend to do all the rowing. Hearing audio of my intrusion gave me great satisfaction as there are countless times I’ve come on scene to ruin utter beauty with my crudeness. And all was right with the world for a few short hours.

Journey and photos taken on 2012 June 17, text written 2012 July 1.

Crossposting: Richmond Zine Fest 2011: After Action Report

2011 Richmond Zine Fest
2011 Richmond Zine Fest

The Hardtravelinghero sports the sexy ArmzRace ringer-T, available via Cafepress. Get yours now before they’re sold out! Clearly this is what attracted this woman to the table to read our stuff (OK, so she’s really reading about what zines are and she came with me).

What’s this about you ask?

One of my recent adventures brought me to the 2011 Richmond Zine Fest.

My review can be found on the ArmzRace site and I hope you’ll click on the link and read about the fun I had and the cool swag I bought or swapped for.

Now here’s a preview of my write-up:

In a crowded room full of creative freaks, geeks, hippies, hipsters, couch surfers, leather tramps, communists, visual artists, poets, queers, transsexuals, transvestites, radical mental health advocates, anarchists, and…um, am I forgetting anyone?–oh yeah, I forgot vegans–how do you stand out? What can be done to draw people in and get them to at least acknowledge your presence and if you’re lucky, look at the ephemera you’re offering for sale or for swap?

Kansas – Well Hell, It Almost Ain’t Like Nothin’ At All

[Mom with Biff the spirit buffalo

at the western welcome center.]

We drive through Kansas darkness. There are about two to three dozen radio stations, about half are talk radio, most of the other half are country and a mere one or two are “normal” music. To the left of I-70 Eastbound, near mile 220, something catches my eye as I look up from the computer screen. Maybe fifty feet in the air, dozens of red lights blink on and off like a firefly orgy. What must be dozens of giant wind turbines tower over the landscape, invisible in the pitch but for their ruby warning lights. I suggest how awesome it would look if each blade tip had a light; my father asks, “Like those toys at the circus that change colors?” I say, “Almost, but it would still be cool even if they were all red”, as I think about the aesthetics or lack thereof in so much modern engineering. While the early-January Kansas scenery offers little during the day, the night may offer a vision of electric sex. Pretend bug sex–if only fireflies glowed in various colors, summer nights in grassy regions would offer a biological light show unrivaled by any of human creation.

Utah Day, Colorado Night

I-70 Colorado

Towns such as Vail, the famous ski resort town for the wealthy, probably as well-known as nearby Aspen, are lit for the holidays, aspens and some kinds of pine trees bound in multi-color or all white electric glow.

Smoke issues from chimneys as my mother cautiously drives the interstate, often as much as ten miles below posted speed limits, the shoulders covered with small amounts of freshly fallen snow as we approach Brekenridge, where National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was filmed, as if the hill Clark W. Griswalk, AKA Sparky, sledded down like greased lightning could exist in the suburbs of Chicago.

Half hour ago my feet were freezing as I foolishly wore sandals in the snow we’ve finally encountered and traveled via US-highway 50 to avoid. Snow was reported along Interstate 80 by my cousin, telling us it melts by day, but high winds may cause drifts.

Less than two hours from Longmont, via the outskirts of Denver, Mother Moon casts her glow through the tops of forty-foot pines though just two hours ago her glow could scarcely be seen over the crests of some of the tallest mountains in the country.

We pass through more towns, trees still lit, icicle-style lights still dangling from awnings, as if Christmas is eternal here in this skiers’ paradise.

Earlier in the day we dallied through Eastern Utah, having taken our first interstate in days. I-70 winds through canyons carved by winds and water erosion and highway engineers. Other times we passed near sheer drop-offs. Occasionally the landscape is fenced in, cattle grazing, we wonder if we’ll see more headless animals, having already encountered a cow and deer that have gone beyond lobotomy. That’s my new phrase for beheadings, jihadists beware. No, not “jingoists”, Mr. Spellcheck.

Here were are in snowy Colorado again, about to head into one of many tunnels carved through mountain slopes when it’s not easily possible to build the road along the bends the rivers take between mountain passes. We just have to be cautious of tunnel cannibals. This tunnel has a stoplight. We’re at 11,058 feet or so and the radio turns to static.

Mom eats some peanuts as this is one of the more easily-driven portions of the road, the runnel possibly over a mile long as Patty breathes heavily with anxiety in the back seat. The tunnel continues on, further than a mile perhaps. Night skies again as we pass a junction for US-6 West and the roadways dives into the valley at 5- and 6-percent grades, darkness enveloping any visibility beyond. The tail lights of the cars ahead act as guides, pied-pipers leading us with only 92.3 coming in on the radio as more snow is announced and “Closing Time” opens.

I begin to feel emotional as I realize how effortlessly I am writing this, hoping to get back into the practice of writing frequently and keeping up with my blogging.

Sunrise in Fillmore, Utah hadn’t happened until after 7 am, when I’d hoped we’d be on the road by. Alas, we had another late start as my father and I enjoyed our free breakfast and I worked on adding a few revisions to my syllabus that are now required by the college. After a sleepless night of crying and whining dog snuck carefully into the motel room we headed onto the road after filling up the family truckster at $3.05 a gallon.

Almost immediately we stopped at an antique store in Scipio as we headed for the merger of US-50 East and I-70. My father bought a 16-inch dutch oven for $35.00 cash, after the “New York” discount of $3.00. With little room in the jeep we placed the oven atop on of the bins of Lego my aunt had acquired.

Onward we traversed through all shades of brown, red, and gray, some layers of rock, black.

Presently the moon’s light peeks over a ridge beautifully lighting a plane’s contrail.

At one of the first rest areas on the highway witnessed rounded rock formations speckled with swiss cheese holes, my mother referring to them as Martian rocks, for once the caves were not declared bear caves, though one other time the “caves”, mostly scarcely shadowed spaces below short overhangs. My mother has more of an imagination than I.

As my parents used the flushless facilities I ran and leapt down the rock formations that reminded of Sedona, Arizona sans redrock coloration, scrub grew here and there. Always, I think of the original Predator movie when I leap, bending my knees to send the shock of impact harmlessly up my body or whatever it is that happens when I do that. There I took the following pictures.

My mother asks me which path we’re taking to Longmont, if it’s I-25. Not doing a good job of taking the tone of annoyance out of my voice as I think about how the TomTom GPS will tell her when to turn off and which way to go, I tell her, “No, we’re taking US-6 around this side of the city.” Then she changes lanes on a curve as my father tried to water the dog (merely meaning “give the dog water”) and it sounds like he spills it as he curses, my father often being quick to swear in such instances. Yes, I think that’s where I get it from, the Old Man, who weaves a tapestry of obscenities which still hovers over Huntington today.

Minutes later we drive over Clear Creek and pass some brightly lit excavation, some sort of heavily-glassed building seemingly built into the mountainside. Dry snow crystals sparkle beyond the shoulders and orange warning lights flash over diamond signs depicting hugely antlered elk, Denver not far off as the freeway opens into three lanes.

At the Sedona-like rest stop I return to the parking area to pee and see about a dozen blankets of “Indian” pottery and jewelry neatly laid out beneath the signs stating “No Vending or Soliciting”. What would people solicit out there?

On I-70, writing this, I find I’m sweating too much and deign to emerge from the cocoon of sweater and jacket, struggling to not elbow my mother, as if I’m molting, Houdini-like. A sign warns truckers to, “not be fooled” about the 4-percent downgrade over the next mile. A runaway truck ramp sign appears followed by one more, with flashing warning lights. My mother scrapes the rumble strip in the shoulder, perhaps preparing to take the ramp. Denver’s lights sparkle beyond the mountains in eternal Christmas.

PS: Speaking of eternal Christmas, we just passed a bicyclist safely decked in reflectors, to which I explained, “It’s Tron!”