I Only Drive The Speed Limit

I was sitting on the couch in the front room and looking absent mindedly out of the two front windows. My view was filtered by the fronds of the new small artificial pine tree. The tree was already decorated with clear white mini string lights and we had complemented the lights with glass ornaments and a few select silver ornaments that were collected through the years. It was mid December and the neighbourhood houses were wearing their Christmas lights together with other seasonal decorations. Dusk was arriving between four thirty and five; at the same time the postman was pushing letters into the letter boxes. Letters make a distinct sound when they are pushed through our letter box flap and allowed to fall into the metal box; even the cats had come to recognise the sound. We empty the letter box by reaching through a small hinged wooden door  in the wall of the front coat closet. The obscure envelope arrived in the letterbox unexpected.

image source:johnmcadam

On the top left of the envelope was
If not delivered return to G.P.O. Box 1916Melbourne 3001.
On right hand side of the envelope was an International ParAvion stamp with an address
PO Box 91980 Victoria Street West Auckland 1142.
And on the lower right was
suggestions to save money by reusing the envelope
When Reusing Ensure No Address Shows Through Window
To Reuse This Envelope Open At The Red End.
The back of the envelope was filled with other tips on opening and reusing the envelope, and how to make payments. There was a large red arrow pointing to the red end of the envelope which had printed on it
Insert Thumb Here.

The obscure envelope contained a Victoria Police Infringement Notice. According to a speed camera at the intersection of Fitzroy Street and Lakeside Drive in St Kilda, my detected speed was 52km/h but my alleged speed was 50km/h; the lower speed allowing for tolerance in the detection system. The permitted speed at the intersection is 40km/h. The infringement offence was exceeding speed limit in a vehicle other than a heavy vehicle by 10km/h or more but less than 15km/h. The infringement penalty was AUD $311.00 and 3 demerit points. The Victoria Police Infringement Notice arrived two months after I had been driving in Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda, Melbourne; just a few days before I left Australia to return to the US.

image source:heraldsun.com.au

The Victoria Police Infringement Notice was a surprise and shock because whenever driving on the left side of the road just happened to come up in conversation I would nonchalantly announce that for me it was as a duck takes to water. If a cashier at the super market, an associate at the ACE hardware shop, or a server at a restaurant just happened to mention driving in Australia, I would, with a disguised sense of satisfaction and pride, recount driving to get petrol and having to chuck a U-ey because I had passed a servo a couple of clicks back. And I sensed their admiration and wonderment. I would gesture with my right fore finger, nod and with a smile softly say; on the left side of the road.

The Victoria Police Infringement Notice presented four options to resolve the infringement penalty

Pay in full by the due date to avoid additional costs and enforcement action
Nominate who was driving if I wasn’t; there was a nomination statement included in the mailing and a new infringement notice would be sent to the person I nominated
Apply to request an Internal Review to the Enforcement Agency if I believed I had cause
Apply to have the matter heard and determined in the Magistrates Court

I replied to Dear Sir or Madam from the Civic Compliance of Victoria to request an Internal Review of the infringement offence.

image source:pixabay

I reside in the United States of America and was visiting Australia during November 2016. I rented a car to spend a few days enjoying the attractions of the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne. I have been driving for 30 plus years in the States, which has a traditional systems of weights and measures; traveling distances are measured in miles and speeds are given as miles per hour. I was aware that Australia uses the metric system. So as not to confuse myself I chose my driving speed in Australia by going with the traffic flow. I am a cautious drive and unknowingly I drifted over the speed limit for a short period of time. I accept that at no time is speeding safe. I would like to request a caution or waiver for this infringement. I thank you in anticipation and look forward to visiting Australia again in the near future.

Not long after I posted my humble request for an infringement review I received a late payment infringement notice for AUD$333.60 which was followed by another obscure envelope with a letter denying my request for amnesty, because my offence was of such a serious nature that it could not be wavered. I struggled over if I should pay the infringement penalty. My ethics won through, so I sent the Civic Compliance of Victoria a US bank cheque for US $253.00; noting on the back of the cheque that the exchange rate when I purchased the cheque was 1.00 AUD =.7581 USD.

image source:pixabay

I hadn’t been in the US all that long when I first went for the driving skills and road test to get a Nebraska driver’s license. I drove a sixties or seventies two door Ford automatic for the test; a big car when you were used to driving a VW beetle, Mini Cooper, or Holden EH station wagon. I was still used to the steering wheel being on the right side of the car and the windscreen wiper controls and turning light indicators being on the other sides of the steering column; instead of flipping the turn signal with your left hand I did it with the right hand; and gear changing was done with the left hand.

The woman evaluating my driving skills and practical knowledge of the road rules thanked me for opening the car door for her. I was the only one that knew I had gone to get in the wrong door; the steering wheel is on the left side of the car in the US. She was cheerful to my reply of; no worries, she’ll be right mate. And we both started an enjoyable conversation; she had an insatiable appetite for everything Australian. I stopped at the exit to the mall parking area and my examiner, without looking up from her clip board, requested that I turn right. And turn right I did; onto the left side of the road.

image source:registriesplus.ca

She stopped her next question about Australia’s unique collection of animals mid sentence, looked up from her clip board, turned to me and said; do know you’re on the wrong side of the road. I thought this was a new question that she had just thought of about driving in Australia; I started to look around a bit and think about an answer. The cheerful lady interrupted my thinking with a firm; you just turned onto the wrong side of the road. As I veered to the correct side of the road I looked over to her, smiled and said; no worries, she’ll be right, mate. And I was soon on a straight stretch of road and the enjoyable conversation about Australia continued. I was stopped at a corner and my driving skills and road test examiner punctuated my discourse on the fair dinkum backyard Aussie barbie with; turn left here. And turn left I did; onto the right side of the road. After another smile and no worries, she’ll be right mate I politely asked her to stop talking to me; suggesting she was distracting me. We drove in silence for several miles, and with renewed concentration, I turned onto the correct side of the road at the next five corners. My examiner wrote something on the clip board paper when we arrived back in the mall parking area. She turned to me and said; you know what you did back there with the turns onto the wrong side of the road was an automatic disqualification, but I’m going to recommend a license anyway. I smiled and said; no worries, she’ll be right mate.

image source:pinterest

After posting the cheque to Civic Compliance of Victoria for US $253.00 my guilt from the infringement offence in the The Land Down Under was tamed. Now I was renting the flat so I could choose the curtains. Twelve days later later another obscure envelope was in the letter box. The US $253.00 bank cheque was still stapled to the photocopy of the infringement notice that I had stapled it to. An accompanying letter began with

Dear Sir/Madam, I refer to the above Infringement Notice Number. We are unable to accept your cheque as Civic Compliance Victoria can only accept cheques issued in Australian dollars. You can pay by one of the payment options below.

1. Send your Bank Draft (in Australian dollars) with this notice to: Civic Compliance Victoria, GPO 2041. Melbourne Vic 3001
2. Present this letter Civic Compliance Victoria , Ground floor, 2777 William Street, Melbourne, between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday
3. Call 613 9200 8111 or visit, fines.vic.gov.au

I explained to my US bank that I would like to deposit a bank cheque that I had purchased and made out to the Civic Compliance of Victoria back to my account.

image source:pixabay

And now I am wracked with worry because the drivers license demerit points exist somewhere in limbo and the demerit point columns at the Civic Compliance of Victoria won’t balance. I suppose I could convert my Nebraska drivers license into a Victorian license so the 3 demerit points could be assigned to a license and the demerit point columns at the Civic Compliance of Victoria would balance. The paperwork can be completed online and the interview appointment can also be scheduled online; but I must be living in Victoria. But I don’t suppose there’s cause to worry about the 3 drivers license demerit points because as we enter the era of digitisation of everything, Civic Compliance of Victoria will create a digital record and assign the demerit points to a virtual licence.

The final obscure envelope arrived not all that long ago and the accompanying letter began

Dear Sir/Madam, We acknowledge receipt of your recent inquiry in relation to the Infringement Notice above and wish to advise you that the matter is now finalised. Should you have any further questions please do not hesitate to phone or attend in person at the above address. Our hours of business are 8:00am to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday, except public holidays. Alternatively, you can visit, fines.vic.gov.au for further information.
Yours faithfully,
Correspondence Officer

I checked back on all the correspondence in the obsure envelopes and whenever there was an enclosed letter the closing was never signed. It just read Correspondence Officer. I think I would like to begin a new career as a Correspondence Officer.


Civic Compliance Victoria

Melbourne’s Top 10 Speed Camera Locations

Driving Down Under: What You Need to Know

No Dramas, No Worries

I sat alone in the waiting area anticipating the return of the associate from the service centre workshop. Why is it that you can go for years without a puncture and then you have flat tyre after flat tyre. Omaha was caressed by a gentle soaking rain the other day so all of the nails and screws that were resting in the gutters were washed onto the roads by the rain water gushing down the overflowing gutters. But how does a nail or screw lying on the road puncture a car tyre

1. a car in front of you runs over part of the nail or screw and cause it to
stand upright ready for you to run over it
2. you drive over the nail or screw and your front tyre flings it up
and into the path of the back tyre
3. the nail or screw is sitting pointed head up on the road and it’s nestled
into your tyre as soon as you run over it

I anticipated the associates return to no doubt tell me the tyre couldn’t be patched because a nail or screw had lodged in the sidewall. I focused on the waiting room tyre wall display and was soon musing over common causes of punctures; jagged pieces of wood, screws and bolts, knife blades, sharp rocks, potholes, stiletto heels, or indoor tv aerials, when a sign hanging from the ceiling caught my attention. A bearded smiling mechanic was staring out at me and to their left was written; tightening, torquing, wrenching. As I stared at the sign the words faded and became; tightening, torquing, spannering, and I was soon singing along.

I think it’s safe to say that if you own a car in the The Lucky Country then your going to have a small tool kit in the boot or glove box; a spanner set, a couple of screw drivers, pliers, that sort of thing. You never know when your motor might go bung and you need to do a quick fix under the bonnet to get to the nearest servo. And when you ask where’s the nearest service station your probably going to be told; there’s a servo another two clicks up the road, if you get to maccas you’ll have to chuck a U-ey, you’ve gone too far.

And it’s not just the way Australians spell and pronounce words, or the slang they use, that make up the little differences that are the The Lucky Country.

image source:excelle.monster.com

Australians keep their knife and fork in their hands when they eat. Food served on a plate comes with a knife and fork; it can be a meat pie and sauce, full roast with veggies, fish and chips, or grilled steak with salad, or anything in between, and it’s eaten with a knife and fork because it comes with a knife and fork. If the pie, dimmie, chico roll, or fish and chips is ordered as take away forget the knife and fork; it’s eaten from the bag or the paper it’s wrapped in. You’ll never see anybody forking food separately; different foods are combined on the fork at the same time. A plate of roast lamb and mixed veggies is worked on by cutting the brussel sprout into bite size pieces, and keeping the knife and fork in both hands cutting a chunk from the roast potato, and then a bite size slice of roast lamb. And with the lamb still on the fork, collecting a piece of brussel sprout onto the fork tines with the lamb, and then loading some of the peas and a chunk of roast potato onto the back of the fork. The knife is used to help move food around the plate and to push food onto the fork. No one cuts up food and then puts the knife and fork down and then picks up the fork to bayonet the just cut up foodstuff; and no one would ever use a fork to cut up food. There are no appetisers in the The Lucky Country; the entrée comes first, followed by the main course and then dessert. And a salad is served with the main course, not as an entrée.

image source:johnmcadam

Coffee comes in a cup. It comes as a flat white, long black, short black, latte, or cappuccino; good luck finding the bottomless cup of percolated or drip brewed coffee. At a cafe or restaurant no one is going to bring a coffee carafe and cup to the table and leave the carafe after pouring a cup of coffee. And you won’t see a commercial pour over coffee maker behind the counter. Order at the counter, pay, take a number with yourself to a table, and await the cup of coffee and refreshment to be carried to your table; if you want a refill of coffee, repeat the process. You won’t find a one cup coffee drip maker or single serve brewer in a hotel or motel room. Rooms are equipped with an electric kettle to boil water, a supply of tea bags and sachets of instant coffee crystals, sugar or sweetener, and milk in the mini fridge. In the morning boil some water, empty a sachet of freeze dried coffee grounds into a cup, stir with a spoon, and BAM!!; good morning coffee.

The The Lucky Country decimalised on the 14th February 1966. The national currency is the dollar, and fifty plus years later the dollar comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes; coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations. You’ll always get a $1 or $2 dollar coin as change whenever you buy anything; they add up fast in your pocket.

image source:johnmcadam

There’s no better way of getting rid of those little gold nuggets than ducking into the nearest pub for a glass of the amber fluid. Walking up to the bar in any pub and announcing I’ll have a beer mate will get you a cold one; but ordering a beer isn’t that easy. The size of a beer varies in each state and territory and each size has it’s own name. Most but not all states use schooner as a name for the large size, but the name for a small beer could cause confusion; its a half-pint in the Capital Territory, a middy in Western Australia and New South Wales, a pot in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, sometimes a ten in Queensland and Tasmania, and a handle in the Northern Territory.

Bartender: G’day mate ya right?
Ian: G’day, schooner of New and a middy of VB mate
Bartender: Sorry?
Ian: Schooner of New, middy of VB
Bartender: Sandgroper mate?
Ian: Freo
Bartender: (holding up a pot and a glass) Which one mate?
Ian: (pointing to pot): The middy
Bartender: No worries
Bartender: (placing pot on bar) Cheers
Ian: Cheers

image source:chicagotribune.com

You don’t need money in the The Lucky Country for tipping because there is no tipping; but you can if you want to. Tipping isn’t a substitute for a persons salary; it’s not part of the The Lucky Country culture. Australian workers are guaranteed a minimum wage by law. Depending on the industry or the job they work penalties and allowances could increase their minimum wage; currently the basic minimum wage is around twenty dollars an hour. However you need cash when you eat out with friends; splitting the bill is not an option. Most staff will act more like your mate than your server so don’t ask what they recommend for an appetiser or request they spend their time organising your bill and figuring out who ordered what. Work it out amongst yourself, throw what you owe as cash onto the table, and then one person goes to pay.

image source:pixabay

It was nine o’clock on a Monday morning and I was in a hotel room just a stones throw from Streets Beach at Brisbane’s South Bank Parklands. I was starting on me second cup of instant coffee and Karl and Lisa had just signed off from The Today Show, so I started channel surfing. My thumb hesitated, and I stared; Atlanta Falcons were leading the Green Bay Packers. I was watching American Football, live, in a Brisbane hotel room. Now it’s safe to say that Australians love sports and it’s also safe to say no one really cares about the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl. The Lucky Country has Australian Rules Football; players don’t wear padding and helmets, and are not running off the ground every few minutes to take a rest and put a towel over their heads. It’s summer in the The Lucky Country when US football is broadcast on Australian television, so it has to compete with cricket; the national summer sport that allows sports fans to showcase both their excitement and fatigue for a game played over five days.

image source:beingindian.com

Cricket is played between two sides, one out in the field and the other in. Each man that’s in the in side has to be got out; men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in, and the next man in goes out and goes in when he’s out. When all of the in side is out, the out side goes in and the out side that’s been in goes out, and tries to get those coming in, out. When both sides have been in and out, and if there is still enough time, then each side gets to go in and out again. The side who scores the most runs wins; sometimes after five days there are men that are still in and not out so the game is a draw. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the in men are out.

In the The Lucky Country young and old recognise and admire the drive, creativity, commitment, and finesse of the athlete who competes alone, but against themselves. They admire none more so than those who are not fond of rules; those that have no respect for the status quo. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, Australians see genius.

And just as I was thinking, the battered sav could be called the battered deep fried saveloy, the battered deep fried hot dog sausage, or a corn dog, the associate returned from the service centre workshop and told me that I must have driven over a small nail. And he started to explain that because of the rain showers the other day the nails and screws that were resting in the gutters were washed onto the roads by the rain water gushing down the overflowing gutters.

After the puncture was repaired I drove to Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and ordered a Chicago Dog Freddy’s Style.


Tipping in Australia: Who should you tip and how much

The top 10 cafés for coffee lovers in Melbourne

Pots, Pints and Schooners

It Starts With Toilets and Ends Up Costing Us Our Way of Life

As I was beginning my fourth and second last loop around the perimeter of Westroads Mall I anticipated the need for a pit stop after the last lap. There are now three public rest rooms to choose from; two are on the second floor. One is close to my final turn, in a walkway that connects into the two long perimeter hallways; and the other is at the opposite end of the mall, tucked into the back of the Flagship Commons. The remodelled, third public rest room is on the ground floor by the new The Container Store. My anticipation was correct so I headed for the remodelled rest room. I was enclosed by white tiles; two urinals were separated by a metal modesty panel. As I turned toward the two sinks the room seemed to spin and shrink and I was transported into that finite space called seat pitch.


image source:johnmcadam

I learned a long time ago there’s no graceful way to get past the drink trolley when it comes between you and the lavatory; you have to get out of it’s the way. And that means your groin or gluteus maximus is lodged within two inches of the passenger’s face in the aisle seat. And some people prefer the aisle seat. The air plane lavatory can be a little intimidating. The thunderous sucking sound that launches as soon as you flush the powerful vacuum powered toilet, and the swirl of mysterious blue liquid that suddenly appears, and then disappears in a quick, deep muffled, thwump can be a little off putting. I had learned that to prevent boredom, dehydration, deep-vein thrombosis and sleep deprivation on long haul flights it’s best to wear loose pants, take off your shoes, and walk around the plane a lot. It’s a given that planes encounter turbulence but I’ve never seen the cabin crew mop a lavatory floor during a flight, so if you’ve taken off your shoes just remember the wetness your feet are feeling, and your socks are soaking up, is not that mysterious blue liquid.


image source:express.co.uk

I never thought deplaning, navigating Australian immigration, retrieving luggage, riding the airport shuttle, and checking into a South Bank hotel would manufacture a hard earned. And we all know that a hard earned thirst needs a big cold beer. The Plough Inn is only a short walk from the hotel, along the winding pathway lined with flowering jacaranda trees; it’s an old style Aussie pub bustling with true blue yesteryear charm and atmosphere. I thought a quick detour to the toilet was a good strategy before settling down to a pot of Victoria Bitter. I knew I was getting close to the metal wall because the unmistakeable, distinctive, smell of the Australian men’s urinal was becoming richer and thicker. When you get that first whiff of proud Aussie mateship you know you’re back home; back in the The Land Down Under.

I doesn’t seem to matter if you hit the wall head on or at angle; splashing will happen. Depending on when you strained the spuds, or how many ice colds you’ve put away, the splashes are going to be either droplets or large drops. And because you don’t really have control over the velocity of the stream at the start, or near the end of the session, uncontrollable dribbling and spattering is guaranteed; sprinkles will end up on the floor, or somewhere. Over time the smell of dried urine deepens and the fragrance floats in the air to remind you that other males were there. I think men respect the smell of the urinal. It awakens our forgotten memories of when we were hunters; of marking our territory. It’s our last playground in the wilderness of civilization. And it becomes my companion on the fourth and second last loop around the perimeter of Westroads Mall.

Queensland jacarandas flower in October and November and their purple lilacs shroud you in a cloud of fantasy. During a guided walk through the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens I learned that Walter Hill was the Superintendent and the first curator of the Gardens. He planted the seed for the tree that became the ancestor of Brisbane’s jacarandas; a landmark until uprooted in the 1980 cyclone. The Queensland Art Gallery is home to the ancestral jacaranda tree; Under the Jacaranda, painted by Godfrey Rivers in 1903 is Queensland’s most famous painting. And fresh jacaranda blossoms fall to the floor below the painting every October and November. I thought there was a faint smell of jacaranda when I gently pushed open the door of the men’s toilet; I scanned the floor and it was clear of petals. The porcelain, wall hung, urinals did have a plastic grid screen covering a urinal cake holder; the cake had a masculine fragrance.


image source:johnmcadam

Summer in the The Land Down Under can be summed up as heat waves, droughts and wildfires. Using time honoured creativity and know-how Australian’s have forever experimented with managing the consequences of summer’s extremes. Throwing a brick into the toilet cistern to lessen the water in it was a traditional way of saving water in a drought; a big problem when you needed a big flush. This caused Australia to invent the dual flush toilet; two flush options in the one toilet. Nine pints of water for a full flush and six pints for a half flush . Toilets with two flush buttons are mandatory in all new buildings in every state of Australia. Most of the The Land Down Under toilets don’t have a handle on the side of the cistern for flushing; just two buttons on the top.


image source:cozyhomeplans.com

Mr Fraser wrote on the board during one of our Williamstown Tech science classes that the mass of an object affects how quickly it can change speed; and acceleration is how much it’s speed changes over time. He told us that mass times acceleration is the rate of change of momentum. Before you choose a full or half flush you need to give a quick look into the bowl, guess at the mass of the substance, do a quick calculation, and then choose the flush that will give enough acceleration and momentum for it to clear the bowl; and if you really want to get it right you need to factor in density. Full flush or half flush; the path to any decision is not always a straight one.

The forested and scenic Dandenong Ranges is a low mountain range about a 20 mile drive from Melbourne. Mount Dandenong is both a mountain in the Rangers, and a small township nestled between the day tripper townships of Olinda and Kalorama. The Sky High Restaurant is a major tourist attraction close to the summit of Mount Dandenong; the picnic areas, formal gardens, and the spectacular views of the suburbs and city skyline from the viewing platform lets you contemplate the noises and pressures of the city from afar. Some say it’s the views that you go there for.


image source:theclimbingcyclist.com

Mr Fraser also wrote on the board that objects fall towards the ground because the earth exerts a force of attraction on them; the force of gravity. The acceleration of a falling object because of gravity is 32 ft per second per second and velocity is the rate of change of it’s position. In the movie Hidden Figures, the story of three brilliant African-American who crunched the numbers and served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in NASA history, they talk about the escape velocity needed for a rocket to break free from the earth’s gravity. Mount Dandenong is about 2100 feet above sea level. The sign in the public toilets at Mount Dandenong must be a warning to the danger, from acceleration due to gravity, when something is dropped from a height of just under half a mile. Without doing the math I think it’s safe to say that an object dropped from Mount Dandenong and accelerating at 32 ft per second per second could be approaching it’s escape velocity.


image source:johnmcadam

During the month I was back in the The Land Down Under I would have peered into at least sixty three dual flush toilet bowls trying to estimate the mass, density, buoyancy, acceleration and momentum of the whatchamacallit so I would correctly choose the full or the half flush. I watched the water swirl, and sometimes I watched it swirl again. I couldn’t come to a definitive conclusion if it was clockwise or anticlockwise; but I can say the shape of the bowl and the angle of the flush water streamed into the bowl is what causes a clockwise or anticlockwise swirl.


image source:johnmcadam

From the National Public Toilet Map of Australia you can get the whereabouts, and a description of the over 17,000 public and private public toilets in Australian cities, towns, parks, shopping centres, and camp grounds. Many towns and districts have a Public Toilet Strategy, and Public Toilet Design Guidelines and Standards Policy. In the The Land Down Under you’re not far from a safe, accessible, clean and environmentally responsible public toilet; going to the public toilet is without shame, embarrassment, or guilt. The Beechworth Visitor Centre provides guided walking tours of the Historic and Cultural Precinct; a collection of authentic honey coloured granite gold rush buildings. The Precinct includes the home of the Superintendent of Police, Telegraph Station, Courthouse, Powder Magazine, and the Chinese Protector’s office. Our small walking group was gathered outside the Telegraph Office allowing Ian to regale us with a blend of humour and fact about the discovery of gold in Beechworth. And then we heard in the true spirit of Australia

Ian I need to go to the dunny: don’t wait for me: I’ll catch up.

And she caught up with the group at the courthouse where Ned Kelly was tried and found guilty of murder.


image source:johnmcadam

I remember when Melbourne had underground public toilets. Mum told us we could only use the one in Elizabeth Street just down the corner from Bourke Street; most of them have now been capped with concrete, demolished, or filled with sand. Regardless of what mum said we always ducked into the Flinders Street Station public toilet before catching the train back to Newport. I don’t remember the whereabouts of any other public toilets. It’s time I established an account at the National Public Toilet Map of Australia website and set up a My Toilets profile.


The National Public Toilet Map

Hobsons Bay Public Toilet Strategy

Dual Flush Toilet

Australia’s Next Crowd Pleasing Tourist Attractions

I hadn’t been in an air plane for six plus years. After I navigated into my assigned seat and fastened my seat belt I found myself just looking into the back of the seat facing me. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when the seat in front of you was more than about eight inches away from your face, and the seat pocket was crowded with a flight magazine, a skymall catalogue, safety instruction cards, a small plastic lined paper vomit bag, and whatever else the airline deemed promotional reading material.


image source:flywithdinh.blogspot

It was the time when the small electronic devices that are now okay to be carried onto an air plane were not okay. It seems as if these small electronic devices have become the substitute for what used to be in the pocket of the seat in front of you. Before the days of e-commerce, skymall was the only place where you could find a Video Screen Microscope or a Luxury High Back Console Pet Car Seat; you always carried the skymall catalogue with you when you deplaned. Back then the in flight magazine guaranteed you a few hours respite from the weariness of just looking into the back of the seat in front of you. I always turned first to the fold out section at the back of the magazine; usually a two page spread of confusing coloured lines representing the flight routes to the various places and cities the airline flew. Time would escape me as I planned future excursions that would lead me to revelation and self discovery journeys; contented, I would search the pages looking for feature articles that highlighted the attractions, foods, or culture of the airlines destination places, and the tourist attractions, the places that travellers must do and must see. As the air plane taxied from the air bridge I nestled into my seat, adjusted the wing like arms on the headrest, and was soon lost in my tourist attractions musings.


image source:johnmcadam

I think it’s easy to define a tourist attraction. It’s a place that people are eager to visit because of it’s cultural or historical significance, or because of it’s beauty and how it was built; the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell National Park, Grand Canyon, Himalayas, Stonehenge, Eiffel Tower, or Sydney Opera House. And some places become tourist attractions because they offer leisure, adventure and amusement; Disneyland, The London Eye, or the Mall of America. But there are hundreds of beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes and glaciers, rainforest and tropical grasslands, man made structures, cultural monuments, heritage sites, important historical and political sites, and architectural unique structures that are not tourist attraction. So it must be because of the number of people that visit a place that makes it a tourist attraction; and tourists keep going to tourist attractions because others did, or to just to say they have been there. Sadly, the most well known tourist attractions are so relentlessly marketed that they have become over crowded with tourists. At the moment the 12 top rated tourist attractions in Australia are:

Sydney Opera House Bondi Beach
Great Barrier Reef Daintree National Park
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Fraser Island
Sydney Harbour Bridge Kakadu National Park
Blue Mountains National Park Great Ocean Road
Melbourne Broome and Kimberley Region

image source:toonz.con

I think Australia’s next crowd pleasing tourist attractions will be:

Streets Beach, Brisbane: Most tourists when they visit Queensland whiz on down to the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise, or up to the Sunshine Coast. Streets Beach is an inner city, man-made beach nestled in South Bank Parklands. The beach is on reclaimed land that was once the Brisbane River and overlooks the city central business district. It is positioned between Victoria Bridge and the Goodwill Bridge; lounging in the sand you can watch the traffic speed past the city on the elevated Pacific Highway on the opposite bank. The beach has a separate area for the little ones and a crystal clear lagoon with calm water for others. The white sandy foreshore lets you build sand castles, romp in the sand, or just play beach themed games. If your not getting sunburnt on the surrounding green lawns, you can fire up one of the barbies for a perfect summertime beach lunch, picnic on the sheltered tables, or just duck over the road to enjoy a cold one at the Plough Inn; an old style Aussie pub that is bustling with yesteryear charm and a true blue Aussie atmosphere.


image source:johnmcadam

Hook Turns, Melbourne: Doing the Hook is turning right from the left lane. You have to do the Hook when you’re turning at an intersection with tramlines on your right; but there must be a Hook Turn sign at the intersection. To do a Hook, instead of shifting to the right hand lane to turn right you move to the left lane, and stop when you’re half way or more into the intersection. If you’re the first car doing the Hook then you position your car halfway into the turn; the front just pushing into the lane that you were in. As the lights turn red from the street you are turning from, and the lights in the street you are turning into turn green, then you do the Hook by crossing ahead of the cars that were stopped in the street with the red light that has now turned green. You should always use the right turn indicator when doing the Hook. Melbourne has a large number of Hook Turn intersections. Because cars are not allowed to travel on, or block, tram tracks in the central city the Hook gives trams a clear go across intersections. I think doing the Hook would be an appealing day long, attraction to tourists; a one day package would include a selection of classic Holden cars to choose from; Kingswood, Commodore, or Monaro, a Mebourne Hoddle Grid map, and a Melbourne tram network map. And you need to remember that Australians drive on the left hand side of the road, as well as walking on the left side of the footpath and standing on the left side of escalators.

Rolling Down Parliament House Hill, Canberra: Not long ago members of the Australian Parliament approved the setting up of security fences to block public access to the hill and lawns of Parliament House. Their proposal was met with anger and disbelief by many Australians because back when, architect Romaldo Giurgola’s design of the new Parliament House fused the building into the landscape. He imagined a building that rose out of the landscape; a structure that ensured that the public could walk and play on the lawns over, and even on, the heads of their political representatives. Many Australians when they visit Parliament house do the time honoured tradition of lawn tumbling; so they can say I rolled over the heads of Parliament. The slopes are a symbol of Australian democracy. On December 17, 2016 hundreds gathered at the famous grassy slopes of Parliament House for a mass roll-a-thon; possibly for the last time. But I’m sure the fences will blend elegant abstract accents with the everyday familiarity of a railing fence. When you visit the slopes that were once rolled down you will only be able to view the grassy gradients from a distance through the fences. The closest you will get to the slopes is by zooming in on your smart device. Many claimed that the hill was the best one in Canberra to roll down; and that it was a really nicely kept hill.

Feeding Seagulls Fish and Chips, Queenscliff: You may wonder why I am proposing this activity as a tourist attraction when most people consider seagulls to be loud, invasive, polluting and aggressive; something that eats anything that moves, breathes or grows, and even things that don’t. But it’s not their fault that we don’t think of them as loveable. We invaded the habitats of their natural foods; mussels, clams, small fish, snails and worms. And so they learned that there is a plentiful supply of food where humans live. Going bay side and having a good feed of fish and chips is a celebrated Australian tradition. Queenscliff is about 30 miles from Melbourne and is a small town seaside resort on the Bellarine Peninsula. The stars have aligned for the Queenscliff seagulls. The Queenscliff fish and chip shop is just a short walk from the beach. The beach is a great place for ship watching. Even though the fish and chip shop doesn’t follow all the Fish and Chip Shop rules; never put an order in a box and then wrap it in paper, only sell pickled onions from a plastic tub on the counter, it is not run by hard working immigrant Greek family, and it doesn’t have fish tiles on the wall, you can still stock up with an acceptable bundle of fried golden goodness. I would suggest three potato cakes, chips, couple of dimmies, and a few scallops. As soon as you descend onto the sand you are assured of being surrounded by a substantial flock of screeching, aggressive gulls. And in no time you will be throwing small pieces of potato cakes and dimmies into the air and watching the ships navigating The Rip.

Brein and Zevenboom Lane, Melbourne: Melbourne is a city defined by it’s lane ways. The Hoddle Grid design that gave the city it’s main streets caused the evolution of narrow lane ways; they kept tradesmen and delivery men out of sight but gave them access to buildings. The blue stone cobbled Hosier and Rutledge Lanes are an acclaimed tourist attraction because of their edgy street art covered walls and art installations. Most of the art is protected by the City of Melbourne’s street art permit system; but the artwork changes regularly and it’s not meant to be preserved. It’s only to be appreciated as it comes and goes. The lanes feature the work of hundreds of local and international artists and are one of the most photographed places in the city. Avoid Hosier and Rutledge Lanes. In fact avoid all of Melbourne’s trendy lane ways; Centre Place, Degraves Street, Hardware Lane, and AC/DC Lane. Spend more time instead visiting lane ways that are still just lane ways; Brein Lane or Zevenboom Lane for example. If you stand in these lane ways and close you eyes and listen attentively you very well may hear the voices of the thieves, prostitutes, vagrants and drunkards of yesteryear who made their homes in these narrow passageways.


image source:marvmelb.blogspot

Make no mistake, plan to visit these soon to be Australia’s next crowd pleasing tourist attractions before they are turned into tourist theme parks and consumed with day-trippers, souvenir stands, street performers, and chain restaurants.

And I just read that an increasing number of people are now treating themselves to dental vacation packages; it’s when you combine dental care with being a tourist. The ten most popular dental tourism destinations are:

Mexico  United Arab Emirates
Costa Rica  Turkey
Argentina Hungary
Malaysia Poland
Thailand Spain

If you do it right you can full fill all of your tourist dreams and have your wisdom teeth extracted.


Plough Inn South Bank, Brisbane

Rutledge Lane, Melbourne

Parliament House, Canberra

The South Face

Unlike most Omahaians who remake their wardrobe in mid October with jeans, flannel shirts, quilted down vests, fleece hoodies and sweaters, to prepare for winter I stay with Hawaiian shirts and shorts. Depending on the severity of the winter weather I will choose from an Eddie Bauer vest, a goose down filled coat, a leather bomber jacket, or an Australian Duster Stockman’s oil skin coat to wear over the decorative Hawaiian shirts when I am foolish enough to venture out of the house. I sometimes swap the shorts for a pair of chino’s. Late last winter the zipper on my going outside for a short time Eddie Bauer vest broke. The vest was a marvelous October, November, and part of December garment; but not really great for snow, strong cold winds, and fifteen degrees temperatures. And I always found it somewhat uncomfortable when I wore the vest under the goose down coat or the leather bomber jacket. The vest just wasn’t satisfying for layering. So mid October was a favorable time to join the rest of the Omahaians who were winter clothes shopping to try to unearth a replacement for my zipper broken Eddie Bauer vest. I went searching for the replacement at the Omaha location of a national sporting goods chain store; the shop carries, sporting gear, outdoor recreation and hunting equipment, footwear, and Nike, The North Face, Columbia, and Under Armour clothing.


image source:fortune.com

The broken zipper Eddie Bauer vest replacement had to be comfortable when layered over a Hawaiian shirt so I headed for The North Face jacket wall. I rummage through an eclectic assortment of The North Face outer apparel and reached into a hanging wall display of standard black jackets; I needed to try one on for size and also experience for the first time that The North Face feeling. The ten or more jackets hanging from the wall rail were in a tangled disarray; each jacket had a plastic loop lock running through it’s sleeve; and the loop locks were bundled and locked together. The jackets were impossible to remove from their hanger and wall display rail. There was a white button on the wall with a sign: Push Button If You Need Assistance. Two associates arrived and I mumbled: It must be difficult to achieve an appealing display that also allows the customer to easily interact with the merchandise without compromising security. Even though one of the associates was the floor manager she ignored my continuing stream of rhetorical reflections on impulse buying. In an attempt to gain her attention I proclaimed: The merchandise is only a souvenir of an outstanding shopping experience. She turned and walked away, leaving the recently hired sales associate.  The recently hired sales associate gave me a confident smile and I gestured to the hanging black The North Face jackets and announced: I would like to try a jacket on.


image source:johnmcadam

The recently hired sales associate, with the dexterity of an angler bringing a hooked Blue Marlin into the boat, guided the long hanger shepherds hook to a top rail and swung a jacket down to me. I had obviously impressed her with my visual merchandising insights because she confided that the jacket wasn’t really me and that I should try The North Face Pneumatic jacket. She explained that the Pneumatic was for those who like to get outdoors and enjoy a wide range of high energy endeavors; it was fashioned with Apex Universal stretch soft shell technology and would remain breathable during aerobic activities: even in moderate weather conditions. She had summed me up. I wasn’t totally happy with the The North Face Pneumatic. I was disturbed with my profile; it bunched up just below the chest and suggested I had extra girth in my upper stomach; this fullness in my stomach made the jacket tight and appear stretched. It was the same outline that I had seen when middle aged bicycle enthusiasts wear those skin tight spandex biking outfits.


image source:mariobartel.com

We live in the Aksarben neighborhood of Omaha; just a few blocks from the redeveloped Aksarben Village. The summer farmers market, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and concerts at Stinson Park make the area a perfect rest stop for cyclists fighting the Keystone Trail; a popular twenty seven mile urban concrete corridor enjoyed by commuters and outdoor biking enthusiasts. On weekends when the trail is populated with walkers and joggers, bike riding families, and Sunday cyclists the village becomes an expanse of spandex. And it seems that most of the Sunday cyclists have complemented their spandex with finger gloves, elite socks, earbands, cycling sunglasses, a road helmet, and bike cycling shoes with cleats. The cyclists who are not refreshing themselves with bottled Fiji or Icelandic bottled water are ordering a tall non fat latte with caramel drizzle, decaf soy latte with an extra shot, triple venti soy no foam latte, or a grande iced sugar free vanilla latte with soy milk, from the Village coffee shops. And as I watch the parade of spandex warriors I just know that they will soon be ordering Radler’s.

Last year a national retailer that focuses on eclectic imported housewares, furniture, decor and specialty foods, opened a store in Omaha. I just recently hung up my red apron after having the enjoyment of working part time at the store since it opened. I delighted in sharing with customers different samples of world foods and beverages; talking about the traditions, history, recipes, and anecdotes of what they were tasting. Radler’s were a popular sampling. And I shared that the Radler was invented by the Bavarian innkeeper, Franz Xaver Kugler. Franz’s inn was in a small town twelve miles from Munich. When bicycling became popular in Germany after the First World War he had a bike trail constructed from Munich, through the forest, to his inn. It is said that one Saturday thirteen thousand cyclists descended upon his inn and demanded beer. They almost drank the inn dry. That is until Franz had an inspired stroke of genius; he had several thousand bottles of a clear lemon soda in his cellar that he couldn’t sell, so to get rid of the useless lemon soda he mixed it 50/50 with the remaining beer and then proudly declared he had invented a concoction just for the cyclists so that they wouldn’t fall off their bikes on their way home. He called his new mixture Radlermass; Radler means cyclist in German and Mass means a liter of beer. And you can still buy Radlermass in beer shops all over Germany. Radler is now being brewed by a host of American brewers; their blend of beer, and fruit juice or soda, is being embraced by all American hipsters.


image source:worldnews123.com

The second stop in the search for the broken zipper Eddie Bauer vest replacement was the La Vista location of an outdoor gear and sporting goods store. The store serves the hunting, fishing, shooting, and camping enthusiasts. The North Face Glacier Trail jacket chose me. As soon as I slipped it on and before I could zip it up, I felt the breathable TKA fleece. I had never worn a Thermal Kinetic Advancement fleece jacket. The label promised that the athletic fitting TKA fleece would move with me on demanding hikes and that it was an ideal layering piece in cool to cold conditions. And that spelled Darjeeling. If only I had had the The North Face Glacier Trail jacket back when I wandered the steep and curved pathways, and twisting streets of Darjeeling.


image source:flickr

Darjeeling sits high up in the Himalayan Mountains and the air is thin. I remember that spring was in the air and that the cold had shifted away from severe and intense; the temperature was yet to reach agreeable. I traveled into India with clothes that were only good for the warmth of Thailand, Malaysia, and Burma. The Darjeeling days were still short and, by early afternoon, damp clouds replaced the tepid sunshine. I bought a thin, light blue, woolen blanket from a street vendor. You can’t hide from the majestic views of Kanchenjunga and the Himalayas in Darjeeling; the snow covered peak of Kanchenjunga provides a magnificent backdrop to the township. Darjeeling is about fifty five miles south of Kanchenjunga; the second highest mountain of the Himalayas and the third highest mountain in the world. And so I called the thin light blue blanket that insulated me from the cold damp Darjeeling air The South Face.


image source:pixabay

I roamed the Darjeeling hillsides, and the steep winding roads lined with shops and market stalls, shrouded in The South Face. And I savored Darjeeling tea in the leftover cozy English tea rooms buried in the thin light blue The South Face. Back then the Darjeeling zoo was just three wire fence enclosures bordering a steep road. You looked at the meager collection of animals by walking alongside the fence. On the fence of the llama enclosure was a warning: Beware Of Llama Spit. I remember pulling the The South Face even tighter around me and shrinking my head down into it’s safety. The thin light blue The South Face also protected me from the coldness of Afghanistan and Iran. I was insulated from the bitter, freezing, Turkish mountain winds when our bus stopped in the desolate nowhere; cocooned inside the The South Face I spent the cold frigid night with my head frozen to the bus window.

I was still unschooled in life and searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary when I discovered the benefits of layering in Darjeeling, so I remained naive and innocent to the unimaginable future of basic layered clothing. I was inexperienced in the theory of unconditional basic layering: A base layer against your skin manages moisture; a middle layer provides insulation and helps retain heat by trapping air close to your body; and a shell layer or outer layer is for protection from wind, rain or snow. I should have trade marked The South Face and had a logo designed and stitched onto thin light blue blankets. I could have set up small street stalls along the hippie trail and sold the The South Face to wandering backpackers.


image source:johnmcadam

After mid October when Omaha has snow filled fifteen degree temperature days I think I will dress with a middle layer The North Face Glacier Trail jacket. The top third of my The North Face Glacier Trail jacket is a florescent green and the green continues down each sleeve creating a stripe; the rest of the jacket is a pale gray green. I might get to like winter in the mid west.


The 10 Best Shandy and Radler Beers

The North Face Story

Cycling Gear

I Love Watching Pad Thai in the Morning

July and August is summer in Omaha. Just the other day the temperature was pushing into the nineties and the humidity was matching the air temperature. The air conditioner was cranked to seventy five and it was straining to empty the air inside the house of it’s moisture. Some now say that corn sweat is contributing to the extreme humidity that wallops the mid west. Similar to all growing plants corn pulls moisture from the soil. The corn plant doesn’t use all of the water it sucks from the soil and some of it evaporates from the leaves into the air.

corn field

image source:pixabay

It is estimated that during the growing season an acre of corn sweats off about 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of water each day and it is guessed that Iowa corn pumps between 49 to 56 billion gallons of water into the atmosphere each day. Nebraska also grows a huge amount of corn and it’s corn pumps out about the same amount of water. And if you add the corn from Kansas: That’s a lot of corn sweat. It was around mid afternoon when I ventured outside to feel the best corn sweat that a Midwest summer brings; you could cut through the air with a knife. I sat languidly with a can of foco thai tea from the fridge and let the humid air surround and blanket me; and I softly intoned the words of the Noel Coward song Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

john garden

image source:johnmcadam

In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire
To tear their clothes off and perspire
It’s one of those rules that the greatest fools obey
Because the sun is much too sultry
And one must avoid its ultra violet ray
The native grieve when the white
Men leave their huts, because
They’re obviously definitely nuts!
Mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun

I closed my eyes and through a misty haze saw a young john mcadam walking out the doors of Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport and being wrapped in dense, humid, thick, warm air; it was mid afternoon so the rains would have just happened. The tuk tuk took us to Hua Lamphong Railway Station. I don’t remember there being any buses from the airport to the city.

tuk tuk

image source:littlebigtravelingcamera.com

And we soon found the backpackers hotel chosen from Lonely Planet. My second floor room was a small cement box with a bed: And I think the shared shower and the ubiquitous squat toilet was at the end of the hallway. At the foot of the stairs on the main floor was a lounging area with a television providing an endless parade of American late sixties early seventies westerns with a Thai soundtrack. A collection of energetic, collegial, friendly Thai males manned the front desk. The always opened front doorway allowed the sounds and some of the sights of Bangkok to filter into the main floor. It was a Bangkok unwrapping itself from being an R&R escape during the Vietnam War; a Bangkok before the mid eighties building boom. It was a Bangkok with a flat cityscape and streets clogged with people, motorcycles, tut tuts, and buses. And it was still the Venice of the East; it was a Bangkok before most of the khlongs were filled in and made into streets. The Thailand I remember was a county sandwiched between the end of a rest and recreational retreat and the beginning of the tourist boom.

wok cooking

image source:nytimes.com

The first couple of weeks in Bangkok were spent absorbing the east. Eating in street side cafes; the shimmering wok was always partially visible from the pavement through the smokey haze, and as soon as you sat at a small table a bottle of Mekong whiskey would always appear. And it seemed to rain every day around mid afternoon. The air temperature pushed into the nineties and the humidity matched the air temperature. At first we walked every where; a Datsun Bluebird taxi, tuk tuk, back of a motor cycle, water taxi, or a shared communal mini bus fare had to be negotiated. Traffic was horrendous and crossing any major streets was to invite injury. We walked over the bridges that spanned khlongs filled with rubbish and sewage, and floating markets. Walking the narrow crowded side streets of Bangkok searching for the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the Emerald Buddha caused us to come across and mingle with groups of monks dressed in saffron robes as they collected food and other necessities from ordinary people on the streets. It was an exotic Venice of the East.


image source:bangkoknightlife.com

It was the mid seventies and Patpong ruled supreme as Bangkok’s most popular entertainment district; the area was crammed with cheap restaurants, go-go bars, nightclubs, and hotels. During the Vietnam war the streets and venues would have been overflowing with journalists and photographers between assignments, soldiers and airmen on R&R, diplomats, and hippie tourists. It was still seedy and oozed provocative charm and had yet to be lined with tourist shops selling cheap souvenirs, fake Rolexes and Diesel T-shirts, night markets, tourist police, bistros, or CCTV cameras. The room was dimly lit and women dressed in smart casual clothes lined two of the walls; it was before the era of sequined bikinis and cheap, showy, gaudy costumes. Round tables faced a small stage. And an energetic, collegial, friendly Thai male engaged you as soon as you sat down. The introductions went quickly and the conversation started with; which girl would you like. The night was made up of an array of stage performances that included; striptease, a young lady executing a ping pong show, and another young lady demonstrating soft drink bottle manipulations.

night club

image source:bangkok.com

Between acts there was; the engaging which girl would you like conversation, simulated police raids complete with flashing lights, whistles and sirens, and shouting from the darkened entrance but without police ever coming inside, and drinking that was encouraged by energetic, collegial, friendly Thai females. I don’t remember how many baht I gave the energetic, collegial, friendly Thai male; I also outlaid for a hotel room and an authentic Thai supper. It had to be early morning when I felt duty bound to turn over additional baht to my companion; she had a sad but compelling story. She lived with her family in a village outside of Bangkok; a poor but close family, and with a brother who would break the family free from their web of misery if only he had a guitar and could play in a rock and roll band. She was living this life of whoredom to get enough money to buy her little brother a guitar. I asked if we could meet early afternoon the next day outside the Hua Lamphong Railway Station. I waited until dusk. I never saw her again.

It seems that we took the overnight train to Chiang Mai; a railway journey north from Bangkok across flat rice planted plains, and through dense jungle and mountains. We would have traveled third class and have sat on wooden or padded seats for thirty plus hours. Chiang Mai is now the second largest city in Thailand and it’s metropolitan area has a population of nearly one million people. My Chiang Mai from the mid seventies is now known as historic Old Town Chiang Mai and is advertised to tourists as; it will give you a feel for the real Thailand: Old Town is gritty, it is rough around the edges, it is enchanting, and it is absolutely beautiful. The old walls are still mostly intact.

chiang mai

image source:scottmurray.com

Our hangout in historic Chiang Mai was a back packers hostel; a collection of buildings surrounding by trees and foliage and a small delightful courtyard. There is now an estimated 202 hotels in Old City Chiang Mai. We shared the temples of Chiang Mia with the Buddhist monks and the streets and surrounds with affable Thais. And our lungs were renewed by the clean crisp air; the intense pollution and choking carbon monoxide and other gases left behind in the traffic chaotic streets of urban Bangkok. Word of mouth encouraged us to trek the close by mountains. And so five of us travelers set off on a two day hike into the mountains and villages of the Golden Triangle; guided by a local we dragged our selves through and along mud trails, opium fields, small villages, and into and out of Laos. We slept overnight in a small wooden hut on a raised platform in a jungle village; washing the mud and sweat from us by getting naked in the stream that I think also served as a fresh water supply to the village. The pot belly pigs and dogs slept under the huts or in any shaded spot they could find. I would imagine the area to be a national park nowadays; the villagers displaced and relocated to government housing and the forest sliced into many uneven parts by roads and tourist highways.

Patong beach

image source:phuket.net

We trekked our way down through southern Thailand; arriving at our beach by bouncing along two dirt tire tracks in a tuk tuk, or maybe sitting on one of the narrow benches in the back of a local pick up truck. A paradise beach. White sand backed onto a dense collection of trees and shrubs. It was one of the Phuket beaches; maybe Patong. The white sand formed a small arc and at one end of the arc there was a small tree lined bluff on which sat a wooden hut. We slept in the hut or on the beach for several days. Fisherman from a near by village beached their boats everyday and you could buy fresh fish from their catch; they were cooked by a women in a wooden lean to on the beach. We never wondered where she came from because we were in Shangri-la. It was before Patong became a serious tourist resort. Patong today is described as a haven for scam artists, stand over touts, drunk hipsters, drink spikers, pickpockets, biker gangs, and a great place for a selfie with a beautifully festooned ladyboy. Expedia has Best Price Guarantee on 558 Patong hotels.

It was two months in a a wondrous kingdom discovering tropical beaches, royal palaces, ancient ruins and ornate temples, shrines and spirit houses, statues of Bua wondrous kingdomddha, floating villages, and friendly people; leaving once on a train to Malaysia to renew our visa on entry back into Thailand. The places I remember no longer exist; Bangkok is an ultramodern city of skyscrapers, sky trains and rapid transit system, ultra modern multi-storey malls, luxury and boutique hotels, and a tourist paradise of beach resorts. Thailand has been transformed by modernization; the plot of the Broadway musical The King and I.

Before summer’s ending and the drop in corn sweat I should stage a The King and I soiree in the back yard. It shouldn’t take much to recreate the 1860s Royal Palace in Bangkok.


What in the world is Corn Sweat

Tourism Authority of Thailand

The King and I


Getting Lost Going the Right Way

The other day I was wandering the rows of flower laden tables at Mulhall’s trying to decide between the Spilanthes Oleracea and the Cuphea Llavea; something a little different for the backyard patio containers. Mulhalls was established in 1957 by Irish immigrants John and Maureen Mulhall. Some say it is Omaha’s favorite full service garden center and that it has the largest selection of plants and flowers in town. John’s love of plants is shared year round with Omaha gardeners. I picked up four inch pots of different annual after different annual, pushing them between my Spilanthes and Cuphea in my trolley; nothing seemed to compliment the eyeball plant and bat face plant. It was an unreasonably hot and humid day. I started to wander aimlessly, snatching at any flowering green plant. My trolley was bouncing off the tables of green. I was consumed and surrounded by a sea of greenery and vibrant color and I thought I saw people wearing flowers in their hair. I felt light headed and confused. I knew I had to clear my mind; rest my head on my crossed arms and take deep breaths. And so I looked around for a park bench.

john on bench

image source:johnmcadam

Mulhall’s has several landscaping examples scattered throughout the hardscaped surrounds. I found a park bench and after a short time pushed back, stretched out my legs and relaxed: And I was soon musing on my walkabouts when I was searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. I closed my eyes and faded images of far away places and people paraded before me. I saw reflections of myself as an ethereal legend wandering an unexplored world. I wonder if Tony Wheeler thought of himself as an ethereal legend when he was sitting on park benches in London in the early seventies. He was sitting on park benches when he was studying for an MBA at the London Business School; and he met Maureen, his future wife, sitting on a park bench. After Tony graduated the brand new husband and wife team set off on an overland journey through Europe and Asia to Australia. In late 1973 they started Lonely Planet Publications to publish Across Asia on the Cheap. And so was published the bible for backpackers and travelers. I wandered Europe and the Middle East along the ill defined hippie trail a couple of years before the Lonely Planet. The hippie trail was word of mouth and trial and error.

Hippie trail

image source:wikimedia

Tony and Maureen defined the trail and made hang outs like the Pudding Shop in Istanbul and Chicken Street in Kabul must stop at places. Back then It was a journey without ATM machines to spit out local currencies, SIM cards for international roaming, personal GPS devices, Skype for video chat, and Google Translate; you had a World Health Organization yellow card, passport, and a collection of either American Express or Barclay’s Bank travellers cheques. The World Health Organization yellow card was a passport of vaccinations. Different countries had different travel immunization requirements before you could enter them; and it was also a good practice to not only get the required vaccinations but all of the additional significant safeguards; our yellow card usually contained stamps showing the date and dose of vaccinations for smallpox, tuberculous, yellow fever, cholera typhoid, tetanus and, hepatitis.


image source:med.umich.edu

The Ford Angelia van was parked close to the Plaka in a tract that was the parking garage for the magic buses, Volkswagen kombi’s, old Royal Mail vans, and all the other unroadworthy minivans that were wandering the hippie trail. And it was time to find a bank to cash travellers cheques, apply for a visa at the Turkish embassy, and stop in at a hospital to have vaccinations updated before driving the Ford Angelia across Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Cashing travellers cheques meant finding a bank; the more substantial looking the bank the better because they probably had a foreign currency tellers window. I had Barclays English Sterling travellers cheques; most I would have got before leaving Australia and I would have used any money I had saved from working in London to buy additional cheques. You signed each cheque in front of the teller at the bank where you purchased them and then at the foreign bank where you were exchanging them for local currency you would sign again in front of the teller. It was a problem guessing how much money you would need in a specific country: you could end up with a considerable amount of currency that you carried into your next country.


image source:qzprod.files.wordpress

I think my logic at the Athens bank when guessing how many English Pound travellers cheques to exchange for Greek drachmas was; Greek was close to the edge of connecting Europe to the Middle East and Asia so drac’s had to be good and I could exchange them in any small town bank or on the street black market; besides I always had a small hidden stash of American Dollars. If I had studied world economics instead of chemistry at Footscray Technical College I would have been more in tune with the theories of the Swiss moneymen; the gnomes of Zurich would never have set forth with such a large cache of drachmas. I was to learn that drachmas were not an attractive currency in Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan; in the early seventies any foreign currency in Afghanistan was celebrated. There was a large hospital on a main street of Athens; it presented an imposing streetscape. I don’t remember receiving the vaccination updates but our yellow cards were date stamped, the dosages noted, and signed by a health specialist. And I also can’t recall the Turkey visa in the passport undertaking.

We parked the Angelia in the shadow of the Blue Mosque in Instanbul; and it seemed we were surrounded by Volkswagen kombi’s, old Royal Mail vans, and a collection of other unroadworthy minivans that were wandering the hippie trail. The ritual was becoming the same; find a bank to cash travellers cheques, apply for a visa at the embassy, and check that vaccinations are current and updated for the next country. Jeff and I had overlooked one vaccination in Athens and so had to find a health specialist in Istanbul. The streets and footpaths of Istanbul were crowded and chaotic with cars and people; most of the cars were classic 1950’s American made and we decided it would be easier to use an Istanbul taksi dolmus instead of he Angelia.

taksi dolmus

image source:curbsideclassic.com

The driver found us a health specialist at a house somewhere in Istanbul. It was a small room with a medicine cabinet on the wall above the sink. The health specialist took a syringe out of the table draw and turned toward the wall mounted cabinet, asking us to bare the arm we wanted for the vaccination. He filled the syringe with a liquid from a vial in the cabinet. As soon as Jeff had raised his hand saying he would be first the health specialist plunged the needle into Jeff ‘s arm and released the serum. Before another word was said the specialist spun around and plunged the needle into my arm and emptied the remaining serum in the syringe into my arm. The health specialist date stamped, recorded the dosages, and signed our yellow cards. I offered him drachmas for his services.

Jeff and I took local passenger vans from the Turkish border to Tehran and word of mouth had us staying in a back packers hotel which I think was close to the railway station; although the railway in those days ended in eastern Turkey. There was a modern Tehran hidden somewhere under the chaotic growth executed under the Shah’s regime. The side streets that we explored without GPS devices were narrow labyrinths of store fronts and people. And you could feel the heavy censorship as the presence of the secret police was felt everywhere.


image source:baharanooshahr.com

One night in a restaurant tea shop a group of Iranians started an English conversation with us. They asked if we would go walking with them so we could continue to talk. Outside and walking they told us they didn’t want any trouble in the restaurant because they didn’t know if we were being watched and listened to. The conversation became more than a hint of politics; they talked about censorship, resentment, repression and freedom and asked us to carry the message beyond the borders of Iran. I would wonder what part these men took in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. There was a strong resentment against Americans because of the support provided by the United States to the Shah dynasty. And most Americans traveling the hippie trail in the early seventies found the going was easier if they just said they were Canadian or Australian; Anytime they had to show a passport the questioning became protracted, service lackadaisical, and civility halfhearted.

And so we used local passenger van buses to cross the border into Afghanistan and onto the Afghan capital of Kabul. The hippie trail surveyors had mapped out an area in Kabul known as Chicken Street and the Peace Hotel or Sigi’s were the places to stay. Afghanistan was famous for hand-crafted textiles, leather goods, and carpets and the streets close to Chicken street were lined with merchants; and most of the shops in Chicken Street sold an array of handicrafts, carpets and clothes.

kabul street

image source:theatlantic.com

Dickering was expected and the negotiation process was just part of the way it was. The dickering could take an hour or more and was always accompanied by small glasses of sweet Afghan tea. Anyone who payed the first asking price for anything was considered an idiot. You could spend a lot of time dickering with the merchants, and smoking, and drinking tea; and they didn’t care if you bought anything or not. And most merchants also had a stock of local Afghan hash. Exchanging money on the black market gave you far more attractive rate than the official ones. Besides converting travellers cheques in Kabul banks took forever and the transactions were documented in your passport. It was a creative skill to balance the undeclared Greek drachmas and US dollars exchanged on the black market with the officially exchanged Barclays travellers cheques; the official exchanges always showed enough money for food, travel, and accommodation. Kabul was a city that detoured around official bureaucracy.

khyber pass

image source:pipstrickland.com

Jeff and I parted ways in Kabul. Jeff stayed an extra few days before he stated the overland trek back to London. And I took a local bus through the Khyber Pass and into Pakistan.

I’ve started a shopping list of essentials for my next overseas travel.

Voltage converters and plug adapters
Space saver bags
Inflatable neck pillows
Waterproof footwear
Portable hygiene kits
Hand sanitizer and wet wipes
Jet lag pills

Poncho or travel umbrella
Ear plugs
Laundry clothesline kit
Inflatable hoodie pillow
USB roll-up travel charger
Travel towel
Portable bluetooth keyboard