Category Archives: Travels

My Travel Blog

Negatives of the Share Culture – Pt. 1:  Ride Share

City Lights bookstore threshold mosaic, San Francisco.

San Francisco has the greatest share culture I’ve seen.  Everyone uses Uber, Lyft, scooters, bikes, and Air bnb. Here are some thoughts.

On arrival at the airport, everyone said ride shares, not taxis were the way to go.  Problem was we didn’t know where the ride share pickup points were, and we had read critiques that the horde of ride share drivers had turned the airport into a mass of confusion to the point of nearly being banned.

So we took a taxi from the well-marked taxi stand.  It was a great ride with a driver from Ukraine who had lived in SF for ten years.  Very informative and friendly.  He drove a direct route way to our hotel in the Presidio, driving safely and courteously.  It cost about $50, just a few dollars more than a ride share, and we would soon find out, it was a good decision.

On my first Uber ride,  a year earlier, it was difficult to find the driver.  Finally he arrived.  We were four, but the driver asked if he could pick up another on the way.  That meant squeezing another in the back seat.  It was rush hour on one of San Francisco’s busiest streets, and the driver said he had to go the other direction.  There was a tiny gap in oncoming traffic, so he floored into a u-turn, barely missing being clipped.

I said woh! Is that legal in San Francisco?  He grinned and said he learned to drive in Syria.  Since it was legal there, it was ok for him.  Looked like anyone could participate in a “ride-share” culture, with zero credentials. Next, they’ll be driving down the sidewalks, like they do in Kabul.  Made a mental note to take a taxi next time.

Next morning, back at the hotel, the clerk strongly suggested we use Lyft on our next trip to the Alcatraz dock.  He said they were cheaper than both Taxis and Uber, and it was a San Francisco-based company.  After the Uber experience, I was ready for something new, but preferred the taxi. Using the taxi app, we hailed a cab that said it was 10 minutes away.  Lyft showed about the same.  12 minutes later, no taxi, so we looked at Lyft again and saw a driver was just 2 minutes away, so we hailed that.  The taxi arrived about 5 seconds after the Lyft.  I told the driver we had a reservation at the Alcatraz ferry, and thought he had gotten lost.  He apologized with a knowing smile.

The Lyft diver was a trip.  He rambled about his personal life and poor health.  He lived an hour outside SF, and was between jobs, so driving ride share, but not making much at it.  He got lost a few times on the ride to the ferry dock, one of the most famous places in the world.  When we finally got close, we were on the wrong side of 6 lanes of rush hour traffic.  He said we should get out and cross the street, even though there wasn’t a crosswalk.  When I said I couldn’t see the ferry dock, he insisted it was right behind the warehouse across the street.  Not wanting to risk crossing, I demanded that he drive us to the exact location.  This had to take a couple side streets and zig zag his way back to drive in the opposite direction.  Not being Syrian-trained, he demurred making a u-turn.

As soon as he negotiated the last turn, he pulled over, saying “the dock is here.”  But we couldn’t see it.  We actually got into an argument, because it was obviously not the dock.  It was a warehouse with no signage, parking, or sign of a tourist entity.  Finally, he got confused about the fare, and charged us an extra $5.  We were now late, obviously in the wrong spot, and dealing with a disturbed individual.  So we took off on foot.  Three long blocks later we arrived at the dock, just in time.

The Alcatraz tour was truly amazing, but getting there was a lesson in the share culture, that we would learn more about in the coming days.  The big problem is that the sharing culture consists of part-timers with no professional training.  So you’re expected to have low expectations to justify the low price—which delivers low quality, often from bumblers who don’t practice their trade frequently enough to really understand it, and deliver good service.  But the logic is, hey, you saved $4, so go buy yourself a latte.

The Lap of Luxury? No thanks.

I stayed at a 4 Diamond hotel for a few days last week, and it was nice, but excessive to the point of discomfort. My travels have led me to a number of similar big name luxury spots, mostly at Hotwire.com rates where $300/night rooms were discounted to $60– not much more than the smelly Comfort Inn with the grinding AC under the window.

I’ve found that the more expensive the room’s rack rate (usually $250-350), the more the hotel nickels and dimes its customers; like charging $15 a day for Internet, $20 for parking, $8.50 for the bottle of European water in the room, a laughable $4.50 for a 50 cent snickers from the mini-bar, $25 for a room service continental breakfast,  and $15 for a movie.

I’d rather stay in a Holiday Inn, where Internet, parking,bottle of Dasani, and Internet and HBO are all free, and a hot  breakfast across the street is $10.00.

Teaching an ESL Class in Mooresville, NC

I started teaching adult ESL classes at a local community college a few weeks ago. The biggest surprise was the diversity of the students—not so much because it was an ethnically diverse classroom, which it is, but diverse in the kinds of people I normally interact with. My students are the people who are usually invisible in my world. They clean houses and businesses at night. They decorate donuts. They landscape, build decks, lay tile, paint, or decorate donuts. Some work in Wal-mart or stock grocery shelves—and they’re not bright faced teens working to pay car insurance.

Being in a college town, I tend to hang out with white anglo-saxon college-educated people. They are teachers, doctors, writers, high-level government workers, bankers, insurance agents, filmmakers, web designers. Those are the jobs you expect to hear about at local party chit-chat. Now that I spend a few hours a day away from this group, I see what a cultural bubble it is.

Though there was initial wonder at the “strange” professions of the students, they are engaging people, and the mysteries of fast-food prep, house cleaning, and immigration are just as interesting as any of my regular friends’ occupational stories—- probably, more so, given their adventure of leaving home country and family to make it on the mean streets of the USA. They are bona-fide risk takers. What they’ve done and why; their hopes and dreams are pretty compelling; their lives full of dangers unknown by me and most of my suburban friends.

You don’t think of that when you brush by the maid in the hotel corridor, or the painting crew having lunch on somebody’s lawn. You don’t think about that when working late at the office, and a guy walks by pushing a vacuum.

These people are not invisible to me now. I make an effort to say hello. Talk about the weather or something and recognize their existence as more than a piece of furniture without much effect on the world.

4 Essential Travel Tips

Map

Rand McNally’s Tripmaker softwear

I’ve made several long driving trips around the USA in the past 3 years, one in a camper van, the other staying in a wide range of hotels, from mom & pop ‘50s style motels to deluxe resorts.  I totaled about 30,000 miles, and have visited every state except Alaska ( but soon).

I was inspired by writer/traveler Tom Keugler’s  list of “8 things you MUST take on a trip.”  But I thought 8 was a little skimpy.  So here’s my ‘must’ list

 

  1. Before You Go:   Navigation & Car Service
    1. Rand-McNally 50 States Map Book–GPS units can’t give you the big picture about where you’re going.  Paper maps are especially useful when seeking the back roads, and have no idea that a state road parallels an Interstate, and goes through cool towns, historic sites, quirkey museums,  parks, lakes, etc.  Google’s not good at finding multiple alternative and scenic routes.
    2. Allstays trip planning software– This lists thousands of quiet, off-the-beaten-track camping spots that can cost just a few bucks a night (some even free) in awesome places.  The $25/year fee is worth it, and you can try it for free.
    3. Rand McNally TripMaker software– I looked at a dozen trip planning software programs.  This was by far the best, because it allows 25 stop points per trip (Google has just 10!) and features accurate dragging to change routes (something no other software has been able to manage).  And it’s totally free!
    4. Good Sam Road Service Insurance— In case of a breakdown, dead battery, lockout, or flat tire, Good Sam is the only service that will take you to the nearest service center, no matter how far away at no extra charge.  Costs a bit more annually, but reasonable.
    5. Lose the spare tire—If you have decent road service insurance, they’ll tow you to the nearest tire place to either repair or replace your tire. Who wants to change a tire in a 110 degree desert or a mountain pass emergency lane anyway?  Let a pro handle it, while you catch up on your email or journal. Also, it frees up several cubic feet of storage in your vehicle—enough for a camping stove, hiking boots, and more.

Driving through the Badlands

  1. Gadgets & Stuff
    1. Laptop Computer or tablet- It will help guide with the recommended software, and let you read articles, reviews, advice, etc. easier than a phone- unless you do all your data on a phone, and have forgotten how a computer works.
    2. Small 12v DC to 120v AC electric converter. This will power or charge your laptop off your car battery, while driving, or not. Get one with a couple USB ports for fastest cellphone charging too. Absolute necessity.  It does use your car’s battery, so don’t overuse if the motor isn’t running.
    3. Cellphone small backup battery– One battery the size of a candy bar gives you a few extra hours.  A lifesaver.
    4. LED Flashlight– Modern LED flash lights are cheap, small and powerful, and are critical when in a dark campground, trail, or low-budget motel.  Cheap– keep a couple on hand.
    5. Swiss Army Knife– a basic model with screwdrivers, 3” blade, cork screw and bottle opener is enough, and will get regular use.
    6. Wide-brimmed hat with a chin strap— These were designed for the sunny, windy West, where a freak 30 mph gust can blow your hat down a cliff or across the highway. Keeps the sun off your face and neck too.  Think cowboy hat, but get high-tech rain-proof, washable and vented version.
    7. Lightweight rain jacket with hood– This can be stuffed in a small bag, but they can keep you warm and dry.  Even in July, in many places the wind blows cold and fierce, and a windbreaker with a tightly corded hood is a life saver.
    8. Cottonelle packets– Cottonelle is one of the only flushable hand and tp wet wipes. They’re great in a tp emergency, or when you splash gas on your hands, eat a chili dog, or run into a friendly licking dog.  Remove the wipes from the packet and put in a Ziploc bag to keep them from drying out.
    9. Suntan crème—The sunny West can give Easterners a big burn fast, even with a hat. Don’t fool around, use 50+.
    10. Meds—I have a tiny plastic bottle 1”x3” with a screw cap for 3-4 each of Advil, aspirin, antacids, and even an Imodium (learned this on a 14 hr. flight that ran completely out of toilet paper half-way through)—or whatever your body may need. Put it in your carry bag with phone, wallet, etc. for when you’re far from your suitcase or a drugstore.
    11. Tiny umbrella—6” versions take almost no space, but help with unexpected downpours.
    12. Rainex—This windshield treatment works miracles to help you see in the inevitable rainshowers. One application should last a month, so you may not even need to take it on a trip. (Be sure your windshield wipers are in excellent shape before hitting the road).
    13. Extra windshield washer fluid and Doobee—I take a whole gallon in my trunk. Bugs are the biggest problem—especially in humid sections of the country– along with dust, mud, and pollen.   The Doobee is a plastic scrub pad that removes the toughest solidified bug proteins that cloths or paper towels can’t.  Consider also a spray bottle of heavy duty bug remover, especially in more humid areas.
    14. Snacks & Drinks– Sometimes you’re far from food at mealtime, and having something to get you by is a big help. Don’t get something that goes gooey in heat. Trail mix is the best.  You can even make your own and it lasts weeks without refrigeration.
      Cool campground in VERY rural Texas panhandle
  2. Cellphone
    1. Any smart phone is a necessity. I have a Samsung Android, which is frequently slow and unpredictable, and changes settings randomly, but it is cheap!  Get one with a compass (many cheap ones don’t).
    2. Google Maps- What all GPS units use, so why not just use your phone and know you’re always up to date.   I had a better paid phone-based navigation apps, that provided 10 times the info of Google Maps.  But it had an annual fee, so Google drove them out of business with its free, but inferior product.  Like all Google products, their goal is to make money, so you’ll be deluged with ads getting in the way—instead of one annual low fee.  I always scope out my route on a large paper map first, then let Google maps handle close-in guidance.  Google maps are best in Interstate highway mixing bowl intersections in big cities like Dallas, Atlanta, and Denver.
    3. Mobil Hotspot- Most cell phones have this built-in, and allow you to use your computer to access the internet without a wi-fi connection.  It can eat a lot of data, but road warriors shouldn’t worry about data use.  Be sure to bump your data plan to at least 8Gb.  Your cell connection is your lifeline, and if it costs another $20/month to use your computer just about anywhere,  it’s a valid expense.
    4. Wi-fi calling- This allows you to make phone calls and texts without using cell data—if you can switch to an available wi-fi network.  This means you probably won’t pay for calls and data.  It’s a great feature in places with no cell service, that have wi-fi (most places these days).  It can save many Gbs of data charges.  Most phones include wi-fi calling, but it’s a little hidden.  On an Android, go Settings>Advanced Calling>Wi-fi Calling.  Turn the switch to Prefer Wi-Fi.  My phone regularly turns off Wi-fi calling on its own.  I suspect Verizon discourages it, because it makes a big dent in their income.  So check  the setting regularly, to save $$.  Now, many cheapo motels and campgrounds have terrible wi-fi, so you may occasionally need to use cell data—another good reason to bump up your data plan during your travels.
    5. Compass—I discovered too late that my cheap Samsung phone didn’t include a compass. All road warriors should have a compass at their fingertips always, even a mechanical one.  Too many times I’ve made a wrong turn on a lonesome highway, and discovered 50 miles later I was heading North, not South.  Grrrr….
  3. Carry bag–
    A practical carry bag is usually just big enough to carry a tablet computer (9”x12”x4”).  It’s suitable for wallet, phone, keys, pens, notepad, batteries, small camera, water bottle, orange, energy bar, map, guides, flashlight, business cards, tiny umbrella, meds, comb, pocket knife, and other small items.  It should have a wide strap to sling it across your shoulder.  It’s good for carrying in restaurants, museums, shopping, bus tours, and short hikes.  Unlike most bulky backpacks, you can set on a chair or table, or your lap, without taking much space, and it doesn’t look like you just stumbled in off the trail.   On longer hikes, a small backpack is more comfortable, but I’ll often just stuff my carry bag into it, and still have all my organized necessities.  I have an Eagle Creek that isn’t sold anymore.  But you’ll find a good sub with a little digging.

    View of Kings Canyon National Park, looking east into the High Sierras. This is what really makes America great. Let’s keep it.

Optional

Cellphone booster–  These can cost hundreds of dollars, so I don’t use them, and they have limitations.  Mainly used by truckers on long hauls where there can be huge gaps in cell service.

First Aid Kit—Though I have one stuffed away in my trunk, I use it less than once a decade.  Stuff a few band aids in your carry pack instead.  Anything else will probably require a trip to an Urgent Care Center.

I’m sure you have your own necessities.  I’ve compiled this list from personal experiences where I’ve said… damn, I wish I brought my…

Happy trails!

 

Opinion | Donald Trump’s Secret? Channeling Andrew Jackson

I taught ESL one summer to Mexicans in the US.  They said they moved to the US, and had no respect for anti-immigration laws.  They said they were justifiably reclaiming the land stolen from them in the 18th and 19th centuries, by white Europeans.  No matter how many times they were deported, they would still return, until the white Europeans thieves were willing to share it.  They had a point.

I’ve been reading a history of the Cherokee “removal’ from the South in the 1830s, authorized by president Andrew Jackson and Georgia governor George Gilmer. Trump really does reflect the dastardly deeds of Jackson and Gilmer.

The US government ignored treaties, ignored the US Constitution, ignored land and livestock theft, destroyed homes, encouraged violence, and permitted torture and murder of the Cherokees, the native people, so they could steal their land.

Their final solution inspired Hitler and his Nazi genocide in Eastern Europe 100 years later. Jackson’s Trail of Tears forced winter march killed thousands of Cherokees. Trump’s threats to remove 11 million American residents has a similar ring.

I especially consider that most of the “illegal” deportees were natives descended from people who had populated the US and Mexico for thousands of years.  They were deceived and decimated by the Europeans, just like the Nazis did to the Central Europeans when told they would be sent to “Work Camps.”

“The Cherokees are nearly all prisoners. They have been dragged from their houses, and encamped at the forts and military posts, all over the nation. In Georgia, especially, multitudes were allowed no time to take anything with them except the clothes they had on. Well-furnished houses were left prey to plunderers, who, like hungry wolves, follow in the trail of the captors. These wretches rifle the houses and strip the helpless, unoffending owners of all they have on earth.”

Will Trump repeat?

The Republican front-runner is winning because, like Old Hickory, he is a wealthy…
NYTIMES.COM
Aside

montana wilderness – indian paradise lost After spending the night at Little Bighorn Battle Field with the Lakota and US Calvary re-enactors, I headed back to the Monument Headquarters for a Crow-native guided tour of the battle sites—told from the … Continue reading

Travel Tales- AMAZING IDAHO

Amazing Idaho

I spent the night outside the Donner Pass town of Truckee.  After 12 days on the California coast, it was surprising to see there was still plenty of snow in late June.   In the morning, I drove I-80 nearly the entire length of dry-bones Nevada through Reno, Fernley, Lovelock, and Imlay, finally landing in God-forsaken Winnemucca, where I stayed in one of the hemisphere’s ugliest RV parks.

After dinner at possibly the greasiest Mexican restaurant ever, I walked through downtown, which had the saddest little strip of casinos in the hemisphere.  I went into one that was, with a fistful of quarters, but saw that slots the machines had gone boring digital with credit card thingies for money.  Plus, as with everything digital, they had a million choices, and I had no idea how they worked. Gone was the satisfaction of plunking in a quarter, pulling the arm, coaxing the spinning wheels, and hearing 3-4 or 100 quarters jangle into the metal coin tray, like little bells from heaven.

No fun there.  The handful of players scattered around the dark rooms were mostly grim-faced solitary middle-aged women pulling on cigarettes and sipping raspberry vodkas.

This stretch of I-80 is desolation row, passing ghost towns like Battle Mountain, Beowave, Golconda and Valmy.  Then you zoom by the little city of Elko, which according to Wikipedia “is also home to legal prostitutes and contains active brothels. Several geothermal features are located in Elko, the largest of which is the Elko Hot Hole.”  In winter, you can ski for $20.

About 80 miles from Elko, at the only town in the West with two Flying J’s on the same exit, I turned north onto US 93 North. One of the great American desert highways, it runs mostly two lanes for 1,457 lonesome miles from Phoenix to Canada, crossing five Interstate Highways, and passing hundreds of ghost (or nearly) towns.

On the border, there is Jackpot, Nevada, which has a 15 story hotel ‘convention center’ that lures gamblers from Twins Falls, Idaho to this D-grade border sin city.

Then, the West blossoms into Idaho, which has some of America’s most bizarre natural features.  Craters of the Moon National Park, St. Anthony Dunes, and the back end of the Rockies.  The ghost towns and sleazy casino villages of Nevada are replaced by refreshing views, lakes, and electric green fields of wheat and potatoes, and Nuclear Reactors.

A bit further up the Road, I passed a little time with this vagabond couple at a Flying J in Twins Falls (they were thumbing their way to Vermont).

Idaho has its share of lonely roads, if you like to feel alone in the world.

And one of the most bizarre sights in the USA, Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Hundreds of square miles of volcanic cinders line the road.  The most recent flows were just 2,000 years ago.  Not a place to be barefoot.

Idaho was one of the most surprising places, I’ve ever been, but the potatoes  I had weren’t the best, and they’re not promoted much.  But then again where will you find a landscape that looks like a herd of dinosaurs just took a dump.

Travel Tales – SELFIES IN THE PARKS

A SEA OF CELLPHONE WATCHERS,
AND NOBODY IS REALLY THERE

selfie1

This young lady wants to be at the center of one of the earth’s most breathtaking views, the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. She’s not enjoying the scenery, but watching herself on her phone.

I love the US National Parks.  So do many people around the world.  They are packed with international tourists. Buses are full.  Especially of Japanese.  Watching them juggle selfie sticks,create the perfect facial expression, arrange their colorful clothing just so, then finally snap themselves looming in the foreground of every corner of the park, oblivious to the real world around them, fascinates me.

The young lady in yellow again, with an enigmatic smile. The bubbling pools don’t grab her attention much. The person in the foreground is on the phone– of course!  Historical note:  Travelers once got to know each other by asking strangers to take their photo.

A recent article described obsessive selfie photographers, as budding sociopaths disconnected from the real world, and unable to appreciate anything their big face on a 5×4 screen.  They visit scenic places but never really see them, and never really experience the intense emotion of being there.  Every event is a selfie event, to be captured for later, or maybe to impress acquaintances, waiting breathlessly on Instagram.  The author mentions that at rock concerts, the audience is a sea of cell phone watchers, and nobody is really there.

Love the very serious expression on the young lady in the foreground, not to mention her stylish dress, hat and sunglasses. The guy in back, also seriously contemplates a high angle shot, while his partner, of course, watches her phone. The pink lady on the left scowls— maybe at me, or was it breakfast? I’ve seen Japanese tour groups at hotel restaurants to eating an all-Japanese cuisine meals. Maybe hotels specialize in that to attract the Japanese tour bus trade.

The little thing in her right hand is a plush toy bear.

My all-time favorites! All I can say is, HUH?

This couple make an interesting composition. White hair vs. black hair, but matching outfits. Incredible geyers and pools in the background. His glasses up, hers down. Could be he’s narrating a video, live. Nice.

OK not a selfie, but the grey face mask was a revelation. She didn’t look like a Muslim, and the bright, giant brim hat seemed un-Islamic. After a little googling, I found that color-coordinated masks were an emerging fashion statement in Japan. The future is here. Except her camera looks pretty vintage. I suspect she was a Japanese fashion model on a secret shoot in Yellowstone.  Hope it get to the USA soon.  Why should antifa have a monopoly?

OK, not a selfie either, but on the same stroll. I heard this young family speaking French, and their clogs, cute outfits, and shades made them look well-put together. No phone or selfie stick– even the kids. They seemed healthy and happily occupied in this breathtaking setting, hands free, interacting with their each other and the surroundings, and not self-absorbed with their friggin’ fones. Vive la France.

 

Travel Tales – AT LITTLE BIG HORN ON THE BATTLE’S 141ST ANNIVERSARY

A friend called Sunday afternoon, while I was crossing Montana on the way to the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation.  He recommended I should make a 100 mile detour to Little Big Horn Battlefield, because it was the 141st anniversary of the death of Gen. George Custer.

I arrived at Crow Agency, Montana and found a re-enactment of the battle, from the Native American perspective, was scheduled for 1 pm.  It was 5 pm, and the grounds were empty.  I went back to the tribal-owned café for dinner, and think about where to spend the night.  Three ladies sat at a table near me, and we struck up a conversation about the re-enactment.  One of them owned the ranch on the Little Big Horn River, where it had taken place.  She invited me to camp where about 75 re-enactors were still cleaning up, and spending the night.  I could stay with them.

Old CSA flag

This is the first version of the Confederate States of America flag. It was later changed.  I don’t know if it was a political statement or just part of an authentic 7th Cavalryman’s kit. The re-enactor was an authentic knowledgeable guy.  Interesting that Custer was in the Union Army, but this battle was fought June 25, 1876– well after the Civil War ended.  At that time, posting on the empty, cold, and dry Montana hills during the Indian War, was the worst assignment a soldier could get.  So the US Cavalry there was mostly foreign immigrants and disaffected ex Confederates– so they flew the first rebel flag.

5-star interesting man. Born in Israel. Moved to US as a young boy, but didn’t feel welcome or comfortable with white US culture. Ran into a Lakota Sioux Chief in Los Angles, whose son had just died after struggling with alcoholism. He told the chief he would like to be his son, and was then raised in LA as a Lakota Sioux. At 18, still an Israeli citizen, he had to return to Israel to serve in he Army. It was a terrible experience, and he returned to the US with severe PTSD. The Sioux community welcomed him back, and took care of him as a wounded warrior. He completely identifies with the Lakota community and shares their rich spiritual life, — he’s also a successful electrician in LA. But his passion is reenactments.  Spellbinding fellow.

Another LA resident, this man is a Lakota Sioux community leader. In the summer he leads reenactments. In the winter, he is a school security officer in East LA. He’s an expert in Sioux culture and history. Film and TV casting agents in LA call him when they need Native background players, and he brings trained people of all ages with their costumes, gear, and stage training in 19th century warfare, including shooting, riding, and safe hand-to-hand combat. He urged me to come back next year and spend a week with them. They were welcoming, warm, but firm and professional. What amazing people, and what hell the white people put them through. How well they treated a stranger like me.

Custer’s last stand, at the Battle of Little Big Horn is a famous moment in US history. It was part of The Indian Wars, 1610 to 1924–310 years.  In school, I learned that Indians were treated fairly by benevolent ‘pioneers’- Thanksgiving and all.  On the other hand because they were ‘uncivilized savages, attacking white settler families’, whose only fault was they were taking the Indians’ land, they had to be put on reservations.

US Cavalry

The U.S. Calvary School was formed by modern US Army Cavalry veterans to instruct re-enactors in the methods of 19th century 7th Cavalry. They use authentic gear and uniforms, and  teach theatrical combat and horsemanship skills to intensely interested individuals– men and women. The school participates in re-enactments across the U.S. They have appeared in dozens of films and TV shows. Interesting dudes.  Most are serious historians and live to display and discuss their work, uniforms, arms, horses and camping gear.  They act out their aggression in a safe, entertaining, and profound past time.

Touring Indian reservations from Eastern NC to the Pacific coast, seeing and reading their side of the story over many years, I’ve decided that all I’d learned about Native Americans in school had been a lie—to make white people look good, and excuse their own violent conquest of the Native population.

This was the campsite where re-enactors- both Natives and Calvary set up their period tents, slept, ate, dressed, took care of their horses,gear, and tack, and prepped for their battle re-enactment.

During the Indian wars, the US government spent the equivalent of many billions of dollars, removing millions of Indians from the rich hunting and farming lands, which they had occupied for 10,000 years.  To do this, the government used broken promises, theft, and mass murder.  It was violent conquest and genocide.  Nothing to be proud of or patriotic about.

This is a combined group of Indian and Cavalry re-enactors. I sat with them for 3 hours keeping warm by the fire in the Montana night chill. We discussed Custer, Indianative/white relations, history, horses, arms and stage fighting. They were pros, and preferred trained re-enactors. Though their knives and spears were rubber, and the guns shot blanks, an untrained person could be dangerous. In this reenactment, one Indian was accidentally shot point blank by a volunteer, and got a pretty bad powder wound in the chest. Injuries abound when over-enthusiastic volunteers lose their heads in the heat of the ‘battle’.  These guys were pros, and had an aura of confidence and dedication you rarely see these days.

This young man was a Montana rancher who loved working as a Cavalry reenactor. I’d never seen a person so at home with a horse. He didn’t use a bridle or saddle, could stand on the horse’s back and ride sideways or backwards and turn on a dime. He seemed to direct the horse with invisible instructions. I asked if my flash bothered  his horse. “Naw.” When he heard the men sitting by the campfire grumbling about the need for more  wood, he quietly guided his horse over to the trees, pull down dried branches and tossed them to the fire. He was pretty quiet, but always listening and figuring a way to be a part of the campfire group. A real cowboy– in his element– no smart phone, no video games.  All natural in a natural place.

 

Reenactors make their own clothes, tents, sometime shoes, etc.

Washing in the Little Big Horn River. The Indians were camped above the river, which helped defend from the cavalry.

This young lady had been working with the Calvary School for years. She was a school teacher, but in summer worked reenactments. She was passionate about horses and everything about them– cleaned all the tack and organized it lovingly in crates to be ready for the next battle.

They were an amazing group:  US Calvary re-enactors and Sioux re-enactors.  Serious living historians.  I introduced myself, and was welcome to hang, shared buffalo jerky, and their other foods on a bench around a campfire where two battle foes got along in a way that would have pleased Jesus Christ himself.

It was an incredible  experience, and one I’ll return to next July—at their invitation.  It deserves a book, but for now, here is a gallery to help tell the story.

 

 

 

Travel Tales – SURPRISE! THE CRADLE OF POT

Met this pleasant nouveau hippie couple at a restaurant in Garberville, California, Humboldt County.  She’s from France, and he’s from New Zealand.  They informed me that Garberville /Humboldt County had been one of the world’s hottest pot spots for decades– even rivaling Amsterdam as a nouveau hippie mecca, for the variety and easy availability of cannabis.

They were happy to talk about their lives, and had come to the area for the pot harvest,  having become experts in how to pick the best buds quickly and carefully– from stints in Mexico, Africa, and Asia.   They could pick plums from area orchards, but plum picking paid $9/hr. and pot picking upwards of $50/hr.– for their level of experience.  Could be an interesting alternative to your kids’ coding camp– good healthy outdoor work and all.  They did look fit, healthy, and happy.

Recreational weed is legal in 9 states, with others on the verge.  However, Jeff Sessions is threatening to arrest every American stoner and throw them in jail for violating federal anti-pot laws.   Pot saved many Humboldt county families from bankruptcy decades ago, when the timber industry went bust.

The locals, who are tough country folk wouldn’t cotton the Trump administration dropping Agent Orange bombs on their beautiful California farms.

Good luck with that General Sessions.

 

Also, Colorado recently reported that state sales tax in the first quarter of this year, from the infant legal weed industry  had exceeded the entire alcohol tax income for the previous year!  Taking on the pot industry will likely be as successful as building a wall on the Mexican border.  Watch out North Carolina and other Bible Belt states, that giant sucking sound you will hear in a few years will be people exiting West for good pot-economy jobs.

Had no idea coming into Garberville as we crossed from the Northern California Coast that it would be such a cultural throwback and economic success story.

Friendly boomer hippies still wander Garberville’s Main Street too.