Archive for August, 2008

When In Rome…

August 28, 2008

Okay, let me be clear right up front this post isn’t actually about that most famous of all Italian cities.  Rather I’m thinking about a group of folks who take that old expression about “doing as the Romans do” pretty darn seriously.

What actually started me thinking about this was that I read that August 28th 476 AD is considered to have been the last day of the Roman Empire.  Then I recalled that I’d heard of a group of men and women who apparently never got that message.

When I started digging into the subject I discovered there are apparently way more of these sword-wielding, tunic-wearing Roman reenactment groups than I’d ever imagined.   To get a taste of the living history they provide—from mock Legionnaire battles to serious toga parties—I suggest you check out RomanEmpire.net.

There you’ll find links to Roman history reenactment groups both here in the U.S. and around the world.  The website also has links to treatises on Roman history, upcoming events, and  sources for period clothing, weaponry, and the like.

Check it all out and you’re likely to come away thinking that, well, maybe all roads do still lead to Rome after all.

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Lindbergh’s Legacy

August 26, 2008

“I lose all connection with the past. I live only in the moment in this strange, unmortal space, crowded with beauty, pierced with danger.”

That’s how Charles Lindbergh described his first airplane ride in 1922, just five short years before he made the famous New York-Paris transatlantic crossing that would earn him an enduring place in U.S. history.

Obviously Lucky Lindy experienced something on that first flight—“the freedom of the sky” he called it—that would change the course of his life forever.  Now you can get a firsthand feel for the joy of flight he was describing just down the coast from where the famous aviator died on the Hawaiian island of Maui 34 years ago today.

Hang Gliding Maui offers 30-minute “instructional” powered hang glider flights over the island’s lush eastern coast from the tiny asphalt airstrip they call Hana Airport.  Being a sucker for anything that flies, I went up with owner and chief pilot Armin Engert a couple years ago and can tell you that his propeller-driven two-seat trike suspended from a large triangular hang glider wing delivers a truly extraordinary experience—a full-on sensory overload really—that I’m quite certain Lindbergh would have loved.  To see what I mean, check out the photo gallery here.

Hangin’ 10 In Hawaii

August 21, 2008

Today marks the 49th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood. Looking back on the past half-century or so, it’s clear the islands have given us something much more important than the music of Don Ho and the overpriced nightly tourist luau.  Namely, the sport of surfing.

Fact is that surf culture has now penetrated every corner of American society.  If you need proof, look no further than the teenagers in the Rip Curl board shorts and Quicksilver t-shirts hanging out in your local mall.

To get a real feel for what all the buzz is about, however, you’ve got to get out on the water and experience surfing first-hand.  I did just that at the place the sport was born while on the island of Maui a few years back. 

Tim Sherer, a remarkably patient teacher and owner of Lahaina’s Goofy Foot Surf  School, had me up and riding my first waves in less than an hour.  Not that I was a particularly gifted student, as you’ll see in the multiple wipeouts depicted here.

Those mishaps notwithstanding, I walked away from this extraordinary experience with a better understanding of why the sport of surfing has so many devoted fans.  Try it yourself and, who knows, maybe you’ll even begin to understand those kids at the mall.  

 

A Labor (Day) of Love

August 18, 2008

In any other major city, the idea of a “working vacation” would seem like an oxymoron. But, then again, New Orleans is no ordinary town.

When I returned to The City That Care Forgot last spring, I was thrilled to see that this thoroughly unique American city—one of my absolute favorite places on the planet—was finally beginning to bounce back from the damage done when Hurricane Katrina blew through three years ago this month. Bottom line: Virtually all of the things that make New Orleans such a great place to visit—the distinctive architecture, the fabulous food, the great music, and the general joie de vivre—are still there waiting for you to enjoy.

But I was equally disappointed to find that parts of the Big Easy remain completely devastated. To say that I found the sight of countless folks who are still forced to live in tents under a freeway overpass disturbing is a major understatement.

Which is where good-hearted folks like you come in. There are dozens of organizations working to rebuild the Crescent City and they desperately need the help of volunteers like you to gut and rebuild homes, serve meals, and more.

While you’ll spend your days working to help bring this city back to life, the personal upside is huge. In addition to all the good karma you’ll generate by helping those less fortunate than yourself, you’ll be able to spend your free time enjoying all those things that have always made any visit to New Orleans a truly extraordinary experience.

To learn more about how you can spend this Labor Day weekend—or, frankly, just about anytime in the months to come—laboring for a worthwhile cause, check out the Voluntourism page on the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau website.

 

Long Live The King!

August 16, 2008

The history books say Elvis died on this this day in 1977.  But I’m not so sure about that.  And not because some crackpot claims they saw him ringing up Big Gulps behind the counter of a 7-11.

No, you see, I met Elvis in person just a couple of years ago.  Turns out he’s living a quiet life in Las Vegas (where else?), working as a minister under the assumed name of Norm Jones. 

We met at the Graceland Wedding Chapel when Elvis—oops, I mean Norm—officiated as my wife and I renewed our wedding vows while vacationing in Vegas a few years back.  It was great fun and I’d recommend it highly to any couple with a good sense of humor, a strong romantic streak, or a little bit of both. 

It was also a pretty darn extraordinary experience: I mean, how many people do you know that can claim to have been hitched by the King of Rock-n-Roll himself? 

Crash Course, Part 3

August 14, 2008

In the third and final episode of this series where I’ve tried to distill what I’ve learned about life in the two decades since my near-death experience, we get down to what’s really important.  Namely, how having both my body and motorcycle bent and broken by an old guy in an Oldsmobile helped me to get my priorities sorted out pretty darn quickly: 

 

Lesson 7:  What Matters

I’m not going to sugar coat it: Figure out what matters in your life and let go of all the meaningless crap—somehow American Idol is the first thing that comes to mind here—our culture bombards us with on a daily basis.  For me that’s my wife and son, family, and friends, followed by seeking out and reporting on the kind of remarkable once-in-a-lifetime adventures you’ll find on XTRORD.com.  Everything else comes in a distant third.  What about you?

Lesson 8:  Speak Up

Too often we don’t tell the people we love how we feel about them until it’s too late.  Tell them today.  And tomorrow. And the next day.  Then show them, because actions speak louder than words.

Lesson 9:  The Good Stuff

As someone who spends his days in search of the next big adventure, I often have to remind myself that the really cool stuff isn’t always out there somewhere.  Sometimes it’s as close tickling my ten-year-old son or laying in bed talking to the woman I love on a lazy Sunday morning. 

Hopefully this series will have spared you from having to learn some of these lessons the hard way.  You see, while getting hit by a car definitely changed my life, it’s not something I can really recommend to everyone.

 

Crash Course, Part 2

August 12, 2008

 In the first installment of our three-part series, I talked about what my motorcycle accident 20 years ago taught me about risk—both the risk of pursuing your dreams and, more importantly, the risk of not doing so. 

In this episode, I’d like to relate some of the lessons my painful encounter with an Oldsmobile in a downtown Salt Lake City intersection taught me about living life to the fullest:

 Lesson 4:  Ignore The Distractions

Here’s a news-flash for you:  The only purpose our culture’s current obsession with the exploits of celebrities serves is to distract you from what’s really important.  Namely, living your own life to the fullest.  Better to ignore all this wholly contrived and meaningless drivel and go out and do things that would make those celebs envy you.  If you need some ideas on where to start, check out the long list of examples here.

Lesson 5:  Collect Memories Not Stuff

I like fun toys as much as the next guy.  And I know there’s tremendous pressure in some circles to drive the right car or wear the right clothes.  But my near-death experience has taught me that none of this stuff really matters.  Simply put:  Possessions don’t last, but the memories of all the cool experiences I’ve had over the years will never fade.  Have a few of your own and you may discover people are a lot more impressed with what you’ve done than what you’re driving or wearing. 

Lesson 6:  Make A Change

If you’re not happy with the way your life is going, change it.  Understand going in that it’ll take time and effort.  But ultimately I believe we all have the power to create the life we want.  All it takes is making the choice to move in that direction.  And realizing that, when it comes right down to it, we really don’t have anything to lose by giving it a shot.

 Next Time:  Getting Your Priorities Straight

 

Crash Course, Part 1

August 8, 2008

It seems hard to believe, but it was 20 years ago today that my life was changed forever by one old guy’s decision to run a red light at a downtown Salt Lake City intersection.  An intersection I just happened to be riding my motorcycle through at the time. 

While the crash and the nine months of surgeries and physical therapy that followed were more than a little unpleasant, two decades later I can look back on the ordeal in a surprisingly positive  light.  Though I can’t really recommend a near-fatal motorcycle accident as a way to change your life, I can tell you that this crash course in what really matters definitely worked for me.

 In order to spare you from having to learn the lessons my accident taught me the hard way, I thought I’d share some of the insights I gained from this painful introduction to my own mortality.  It’s a three-part series I’m calling Crash Course:

 

n Lesson 1:  Playing It Safe

This may seem odd coming from a guy who nearly died while participating in what some would consider an inherently dangerous activity.  But my motorcycle crash ultimately left me convinced that a life without risk is not worth living.  While it may be possible to avoid a certain amount of pain and suffering by never leaving the safety of your living room couch, such a play-it-safe approach looks more like existing than living to me.  Understand I’m not suggesting you take crazy risks here.  Just  encouraging you to let your life be guided by what you want, not what you’re afraid of.

 n Lesson 2:  Don’t Wait

Okay, I’ll cop to the fact that I can be a bit of a procrastinator. But time and again the Universe has made one point abundantly clear to me:  Life Is Uncertain.  So if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, don’t put it off.  Because it’s entirely possible that that “some day” you were waiting for to finally live out your dream may never come.

 n  Lesson 3:  No Regrets

After my accident, a very wise man told me something that still guides my life to this day.  He said that, on their death beds, old people never regret what they did, only what they didn’t do.  While I may not get to everything on my ever-expanding list of adventures before my time comes, I plan on doing all I can to leave this life with very few regrets.

 Next Time:  How To Make Hollywood Celebrities Envy You

Book It!

August 5, 2008

 

I’m headed to New York City this week and, frankly, I’m not looking forward to spending five hours crammed into the plane’s overcrowded economy cabin on the way there.

Of course a good book will definitely help pass the time.  To make things a little more interesting, I usually try to find something set in my destination to sort of set the mood for the trip. 

If you’re of a similar mind when it comes to your choice of reading material on the road, take a few minutes to check out Longitude Books.  This online travel-oriented bookseller’s website offers a cool search feature that allows you to enter either a destination or an activity (like kayaking) to get your own customized reading list.

A typical search will generate a list of recommended titles that run the gamut from standard and specialty guidebooks and maps to travel narratives, novels, biographies, and even movies set in your destination.  What makes this service especially cool is the breadth and depth of really interesting titles that you’d never find in a million years on the shelves at your local bookstore. 

Check their website out before your next long flight and you’ll be thoroughly immersed in your destination long before anyone asks you to return your seatbacks and tray tables to their upright and locked position.

The Real School of Rock!

August 2, 2008

I was flipping through the cable channels the other night when I came across the movie School of Rock.  While it’s not my favorite Jack Black flick (that would be High Fidelity where he plays a serious rock-and-roll record snob, something to which I can relate), it got me thinking about Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, a place that ranks as a truly extraordinary experience for any serious student of rock music.

Unlike your typical dusty museum, the I. M. Pei-designed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame feels as vibrantly alive as the music history it chronicles.  Its 55,000-plus square-feet of exhibit space contain thousands of remarkable artifacts that span more than a half-century and countless musical styles from Motown and rockabilly to psychedelic and punk.  On my last visit I found the place stuffed to the rafters with items I’d always heard about but never imagined I’d see in person, including a recreation of Sam Philips’ famous Sun Studios where Elvis cut his first  hit record and Jimmy Hendrix’s 1965 Fender Stratocaster.

If the museum’s constantly changing exhibits aren’t enough to get you to load up your own Mirthmobile for the roadtrip to Cleveland, here’s another enticement: Time your visit right and you’ll also be able to catch catch any number of special events including the museum’s free concert series.   Party on Garth!