Archive for January, 2009

Giggles Per Greenback

January 26, 2009

meterLook, I watch the nonstop gloom-and-doom festival they call the nightly news and I know that times are tough all over.  But I also know that, if ever there was a time when we could all use to blow off a little steam and have a few laughs, well, this is it.

Which is why I’ve created  a thoroughly unscientific list of extraordinary experiences that I feel are outstanding values.  We’re talking about maximum yucks for minimum bucks

All will set you back less than $500.  Which seems like a small price to pay for an adventure guaranteed to make you forget all those news reports that had you feeling so freaky-freaky in the first place:

 

Heavy-Duty Therapy

Feeling frustrated?  Powerless?  Here’s my prescription: Take a few hours of tearing stuff up behind the controls of a 20-ton bulldozer or tracked excavator and call me in the morning.

 Mellow Out With Manatees

Remember the old Get Smart episode with the retrogressor gun, a device that made everyone act like a goofy eight-year-old kid for 30 minutes?  Coming face-to-face with a Florida manatee is just like that, only wetter.

Paragliding For Perspective

Sometimes, when things look bad, it helps to try a different perspective.  Like cruising hundreds of feet above the Pacific on an hour-long tandem paraglider flight from La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Gliderport.

Driven To Distraction

Car lovers looking for a little four-wheeled escapism need look no further than Detroit’s annual Woodward Dream Cruise.  If 12 hours of rubbernecking at 40,000 hot rods, customs, and classics doesn’t distract you from your troubles, nothing will.

Golden Opportunity

Who couldn’t use a little extra cash right about now, you know, for little luxuries like rent and groceries?  Well, allow me to suggest you go pick it up from the source on one of these gold prospecting adventures.

Iron Butt It!

For me, riding a motorcycle has always been a great way to decompress.  Add the gorgeous scenery and mental challenges of riding in a 24-hour endurance rally like the Utah 1088 and you have an experience that is both extraordinary and therapeutic.

Fais Do-Do At Fred’s

If there were a graduate-level course in forgetting your worries, they’d teach it during the weekly Saturday morning Cajun dance party at the legendary Fred’s Lounge in Mamou, Louisiana.  Don’t believe me?  Go ahead, show up here and try and have a bad time here, I dare you.

Run Flat Out

Life is complicated.  Which explains the appeal of running in the USFRA’s 130 MPH Club on the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Pull up to the starting line, stand on the gas pedal, grin like an idiot, and hang on.  If only everything were this simple.

Leap Of Faith

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane may seem a little nutty, but I’ll tell you this: If there’s a more fully-alive-in-the-present-moment experience on this planet, I haven’t found it.  Plus, after watching them open that door at 14,000 feet, nothing you face in your everyday life will ever seem all that scary again.

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My Kind of Light Show

January 20, 2009

050118-F-3488S-003Growing up on the shores of Lake Erie, I had enough brutal winter weather in my first couple of decades to last me the rest of my life.  Which makes it all the more surprising that, upon reading this story about a mid-winter visit to Finland’s Hotel Kakslauttanen, I immediately thought: “Wow, I wanna go there!”

You see, viewing the northern lights has long been on my extraordinary experiences “to-do” list.  The problem, of course, is that these psychedelic atmospheric disturbances are best viewed during the long dark nights of winter at extreme northern latitudes where, to use the technical meteorology term, it gets friggin’ cold.

Turns out that the owner of this unique Lapland hotel 150 miles above the Arctic Circle felt my pain and solved this dilemma by building of 20 glass-roofed igloos.  To be able to lie in a nice warm bed under a star-filled sky and watch this natural light show unfold above me frankly sounds like a dream come true. 

Now all I need to do is figure out a way to get to and from my igloo without actually stepping outside!

If you’ve found another equally fun way to view the aurora borealis, drop me a note via the “Leave A Reply’ box below.

Asleep In The Cockpit

January 17, 2009

19286While I’m not a card-carrying aviation geek like some of my friends, one look at the list of adventures collected on XTRORD.com’s Xperiences page and it’s not hard to tell I’m into pretty much anything that flies.  Which may explain why the new Jumbo Hostel at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport caught my eye.

Built inside the shell of a mid-1970s-vintage Boeing 747-200 that’s been grounded at the airport’s entrance, this budget-priced hostel makes a way-cool alternative to your typically dreary airport hotels.  Inside are two-dozen rooms that range from bunk bed-equipped dormitory-style digs to a “Cockpit Suite” that retains many of the flight deck’s original gauges and controls and offers an impressive view of the action on the airport’s runways.  All rooms include flat-screen TVs (with a channel devoted to flight arrival and departure times) and wireless internet access.  Curious travelers and aviation geeks (you know who you are) will want to check out this video tour.

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More than anything else though, the Jumbo Hostel offers something you might never have thought possible—the chance to get a really good night’s sleep on an airplane!

“Killer” Cereal

January 13, 2009

Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, chocolate syrup, and malted milk balls.  Adding milk makes it healthy, right?

Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, fudge sauce, and malted milk balls. Adding milk makes it healthy, right?

Look through the pages of XTRORD.com and this blog and you may get the idea that I have a thing for food.  While my tastes are admittedly too low-brow for me to be considered a gourmet and my interest is a bit too casual for me to qualify as a true “foodie,” I do love discovering people and places that transform the often mundane act of eating into an extraordinary experience.

Which brings me to this quirky little café franchise called Cereality where they serve up more than two dozen brands of your favorite hot and cold breakfast cereals in any mix-and-match combination your twisted little taste buds can imagine.  To make these custom “Cereal YOUR Way” blends just that much more interesting, you can add your choice of more than 40 toppings and mix-ins ranging from cinnamon apples to pop rocks (if your creation turns out to be too nasty to choke down, they’ll actually let you try again at no charge—how cool is that?).  For those who can’t decide, they also offer their own proprietary “Cereal OUR Way” concoctions like the “Devil Made Me Do It” pictured above.

If you’d like to experience this exercise in crunchy creativity for yourself, click here to find the Cereality location nearest you.

Do It NOW!

January 10, 2009

f18vaporconeWhile I normally have zero interest in the world of celebrities, I have to admit I was touched by the recent death of John Travolta’s 16-year-old son Jett (love that name) on a family vacation in the Bahamas.

As the father of a bright, energetic, funny 10-year-old boy, I feel for this man’s loss on a very visceral level.  My son Schuyler (Sky, for short) is hands-down the most consistent source of joy in my daily life, and watching him grow up honestly gives new meaning to the phrase “extraordinary experience.”  All of which makes the mere thought of losing him utterly devastating.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that life can change in an instant.  Which is why I’m a firm believer in showing (not just telling, as words are cheap) the people I love how important they are to me every chance I get.

It’s also why I believe in doing all those things you’ve always wanted to do today.  Don’t put it off till “some day,” lest you find out the hard way that that “some day” may never come.

Which brings me back to our motto around here: “Life Is Short.  Live It Fully.” ‘Nuff said?

Have Family, Will Travel

January 5, 2009

foto-8Given the sub-freezing overnight lows here in the last couple of weeks, I’m really looking forward to a little family trip to Florida we have planned for next month. 

Highlights include going back to swim with the manatees off Florida’s west coast, an interspecies encounter that I found to be nothing short of amazing the first time around.  We’ll also be checking out a few new extraordinary experiences, including watching one of the last remaining Space Shuttle launches before NASA pulls the plug on the giant rocket-planes in 2010. space_shuttle_launch

And speaking of family travel, I wanted to say a special thanks to Shannon Hurst Lane, one of the four adventurous ladies behind TravelingMamas.com for the great interview with me she just posted on the website.   While you’re there, check out some of the stories of their own memorable family advenures, including this one that I’ve just put on my personal “to-do” list.   

The Original Chocolate Factory

January 2, 2009

oompaloompacrewAlright friends, time for a little game of word association.  Now, if I say “chocolate factory,” you say…what?

If the first words out of your mouth were “Willy Wonka,” give yourself two points for pop culture awareness. If you said “Rocky Mountain,” deduct one point because you’re probably spending way too much time at the mall.  Ten points and the win go to those of you who thought of the ancient Mayans, the first people to grind up the seeds of wild cacao trees and whip them into a bitter chocolate beverage nearly 2,000 years ago. 

Fast forward a couple of millennia and the truly chocolate-obsessed can now get a first-hand look at the origins of this delectable superfood at the Cotton Tree Lodge near Punta Gorda, Belize.  The thatch-roofed jungle outpost, located on the banks of the Moho River, is offering week-long Mayan Chocolate-Making Workshops that give you an opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of everyone’s favorite confection under the guidance of locals who still make the stuff in much the same way their ancestors did.

These special  programs, scheduled for February 8-15 and May 17-24, allow you to gain hands-on experience of every aspect of the traditional process, from picking your own pods at an organic cacao farm to roasting the beans to molding and packaging your own handmade chocolate bars to take home.  If you grow tired of all this chocolatey goodness (as if that’s possible), the resort offers a host of other interesting diversions, including tours of Mayan ruins and a swim through an underground river.

Cacao Pods

Cacao Pods

Oh, and one more thing.  Those of you who blurted out “Oompa-Loompa” in our little test, well, let’s just say you  might want to seriously consider seeking professional help.