Archive for April, 2009

Online, Off-The-Wall

April 28, 2009

World Gurning Championships

World Gurning Championships

Perhaps my favorite thing about this blog is when readers send me links to extraordinary experiences I might not otherwise have found on my own.  My second favorite thing is when I get to turn around and share them with the rest of you.

With that in mind, here are some of the most entertaining, unusual, and even downright strange things to land in my e-mailbox over the past several weeks.  Enjoy!:

  •  The Rapper:  I fly a lot and have to admit I usually end up tuning out the flight attendant’s safety spiel.  But there’s no ignoring this guy, who gets bonus points for creativity.  Extra points to the airline for letting him do it.
  • Funny Finnish Festivals:  If you doubt the fact that our friends in Finland have a sense of humor, check out this list of some of their wacky summer festivals.  Cell phone-throwing I totally get, but wife-carrying, well, not so much!
  • Toxic Asset Tour:  Okay, by now you’ve probably figured out that I love quirky stuff.  And this amble through the wreckage of Wall Street’s financial meltdown—led by a guy who was there—certainly qualifies.
  • World’s Best Bathrooms:  While I don’t generally consider answering nature’s call to be all that extraordinary an experience, there are exceptions to every rule.  Like these award winners.
  • World Gurning Championships: Remember how your grandmother told you if you didn’t stop making those funny faces your young mug would get stuck like that?  Well, here’s what happens to people who don’t listen. 

Boredom Busters

April 21, 2009

roadtripseries11Just got back from another one of my frequent roadtrips to southern California.  And, let me just say, you don’t know boredom until you’ve been motoring down Interstate 5 through California’s flat and featureless Central Valley for five straight hours.

Luckily on this trip I decided to bring along a trio of new compact discs I just got from my friends at National Public Radio.  The series, just coincidentally titled NPR Road Trips, is made up of three new CDs including “Roadside Attractions,” “National Park Adventures,” and “Postcards from Around The Globe.” Each features more than a dozen stories from NPR’s crack correspondents that run the gamut from silly (everything you always wanted know about the world’s second-largest ball of twine) to the extraordinary (a look at what it’s like for the 60 men and women who choose to spend six months each winter stranded at research bases at the South Pole).  I found all three thoroughly entertaining and can’t recommend them highly enough for anyone looking to make the miles of a long drive fly by.

The CDs are available online from the  NPR Shop at $15 each or $35 for the set.

Scream Machines

April 14, 2009

Cedar Point's Blue Streak

Cedar Point's Blue Streak

It’s been said that, since life has its inevitable ups and downs, the best thing any of us can do is to sit back and enjoy the ride.  Which is precisely the point as far as roller coaster enthusiasts are concerned.

If you count yourself among them, you’ll want to check out this blog post from that lists 56 of the coolest coasters in the U.S., including everything from vintage wooden classics like Cedar Point’s Blue Streak (the first rollercoaster I ever rode—scared the heck out of me) to cutting-edge “giga-coasters” like Six Flags Great Adventure’s Kingda Ka that’s as tall as a 45-story building.  Along with interesting factoids about the attractions, they’ve also managed to collect some cool video clips that give you a feel for what it’s like to actually ride each of these scream machines.

If watching the experience from the comfort of your computer screen isn’t quite cutting it, you might want to look into one of these annual coaster tours that make it possible to hit as many as 16 amusement parks the course of one trip:

U.S./International Roller Coaster Tours

Teen-Oriented Roller Coaster Tours

Hit The Road jack!

April 8, 2009

qnlruqorhcwc48q35k15oamf_500Look through the extraordinary experiences featured on the pages of and it’s pretty clear I’m always up for a new adventure.  Especially, a good roadtrip.

Which may help explain why I think June’s Rental Car Rally from San Francisco to Yuma, AZ sound like so much fun.  What really makes the idea of this 36-hour run so entertaining however is that, in addition to traditional rally scoring based on time and distance between checkpoints, the organizers award a healthy number of points for things like “Team Style” (think themed costumes here, and the more outrageous the better) and “random tomfoolery.”  Those two elements alone make it seem well worth the price of admission.

To join this rolling party, go to the rally’s Registration Page.  

Hugs & Kisses

April 2, 2009

rider-kissOver the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several truly remarkable wildlife encounters with everything from a 400-pound Alaskan grizzly to a 24-ounce Harris hawk.  And now I can add another extraordinary experience to that list thanks to folks at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys.

Hawks Cay, which is located on Duck Key about 90 minutes south of Miami, has all the things you’d expect at an upscale resort, including a wide array of watersports activities (Hot Tip: Check out their jet ski tours where we saw both dolphins and sea turtles in their natural environment).  But the hotel also has something you’re not likely to find anywhere else: A full-on dolphin encounter program dedicated to both preserving the species and protecting the oceans that these highly intelligent marine mammals call home.

One way the folks at the Dolphin Connection hope to achieve those admirable goals is by offering three distinct programs designed to appeal to a variety of ages and interest levels.  My family and I opted for the 45-minute Dolphin Discovery program that allowed us to spend nearly a half-hour in the water with the program’s four Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. 

While guests’ interactions with the dolphins are tightly controlled for the good of all concerned, it was still pretty amazing to be this close to these intelligent creatures and interact with them as the trainers put them through their paces.  Actually, in retrospect, it was a little like co-starring in one of those old Flipper episodes I watched as a kid.

rider-hug-2In the end our time with the dolphins was over much too soon, though not before we all managed to get both a hug and a kiss out of the deal.  Which, come to think of it, is more than I can say for any of the other wildlife encounters I’ve ever had!