Archive | April, 2013

Sharing The Road With Trucks

30 Apr

traffic-jam-wr.jpgDespite all the attention paid to air travel, most business travelers hit the highways much more often than the skyways. As summer vacation season approaches, more families will be hitting the highways, too.

At the same tine, the economy is sputtering back to life, and more large trucks are hitting the highways, too, making sharing roads with the big rigs increasingly common–and crowded.


In the US, there are about 400,000 large truck accidents a year, 80% of which are caused by passenger vehicles–not the trucks. In 2010, 3,675 people died in truck-related crashes, and most of them were in cars, light trucks, on motorcycles or on foot.

All this means that drivers need more advice on sharing the road with trucks, so I’ve inserted this helpful infographic below.

10 Tips for Sharing the Road with Trucks 10 Tips for Sharing the Road with Trucks infographic by OrtegaAnt.

Sharing The Road With Trucks

Road Tripping: Then and Now

30 Apr

hula.jpgWhen it comes to the reasons we road trip, not much has changed in the last 25 years. We set out on the open road to experience the world in a personal, hands on way. We don’t just want the view from 30,000 feet. We want to be able to stick our arms out the windows and feel the sweet smells and beautiful vistas pour over us. Road trips have always been and will always be about freedom.


However, when it comes to the ways that we road trip, a lot has changed. 25 years ago, there were no iPods, headrest TV’s, GPS, or standard airbags. In fact, it was only 28 years ago that the first state made seat belts required by law. The way we road trip is very different now from what it used to be. Here are a few suggestions for those of you wanting to enjoy the comforts and safeties of modern travel while not missing out on the appeal of vintage road tripping.

1. On-The-Way Destinations – On your way to the final destination plan several stops along the way. Along most major highways, you are sure to find interesting sites to visit every couple hundred miles. This is a good opportunity to break up the miles and stretch the legs of your restless young ones.

2. Turn Off, Tune In – It’s easy to become distracted with dvd players, mobile phones and loud stereos. But don’t let the technology in the car distract you from the beauty outside of it. Tune in the sites and sounds that surround you. Talk about it with your fellow road trippers and take lots of pictures.

3. Take the Long Way – If you were concerned about getting there quickly, you would have flown. Don’t be afraid to plan a short detour to visit the national parks and vistas you’ve only seen in books and Discovery Channel specials.

4. Tell Stories – It’s not very often that you get a captive audience for hours at a time. Take this opportunity to share fun and inspirational stories with your family and friends in the car. The more you share, the more they will. By the end of the road trip, you’re sure to have even more stories to share next time. Which brings me to my last hint.

5. Do It More Often – Kids these days aren’t accustomed to the road tripping way of travel. It may take a few trips for them to recognize the value in taking to the open road. But, be patient. In time, some of their fondest memories are sure to come from these road trips.

Road Tripping: Then and Now

5Point Film Festival Preview: Redefining Adventure and Community

30 Apr
5Point Film Festival director Sarah Wood (left) and the team prepare for the April 2013 event; Photograph courtesy 5Point Film Festival

5Point Film Festival executive director Sarah Wood (left) and the team prepare for the April 2013 event; Photograph by Corie Spruill

The 5Point Film Festival running April 25 to 28 in Carbondale, Colorado, kicks off the adventure film festival season and sets the stage for the rest of the year. By presenting a wide range of movies that push the definition of adventure, the film festival aims to inspire the community—young and old, and of all ability levels—to define what their own next adventure might be. Unlike other film festivals, 5Point has one venue and one evening program, so movie goers have a shared experience. Then during the day, the festival attendees explore the adventure playground of Carbondale, Colorado.

Previously with the American Alpine Club, new executive director Sarah Wood brings much experience and energy of her own to the festival now in its 6th year. Here she tells us why 5Point is unique, what shapes her vision, and about a few exciting new films.

James Mills: How does film help to tell the stories of the adventure community? What role do you think 5Point plays in sharing those stories?

Sarah Wood: I think 5Point is less about focusing on what kind of story it is, but that it’s a great story. I think you’ll recognize that not every story is about kayaking or climbing or mountaineering or adventure in the typical definition. We’re about telling inspirational stories, and lot of times that does happen in the outdoors and beautiful remote places. But sometimes it can happen in your backyard. Sometimes it can happen in unexpected places. We like to find and show those stories as well at the festival.

Film has a unique way of drawing a person into a story in such a different way than a written piece or a spoken piece can do. They can be equally as powerful, but I think that with film you’re able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes in a different way. And we hope to allow people to do that … and maybe recognize that piece of themselves in these stories. Film is such a powerful tool in that way.

JM: There are a lot of adventure film festivals out there. How is 5Point different in your opinion?

SW: 5Point is different in a couple of ways. We have just one venue and program, and you’re either in it or you’re not. It’s everyone coming together in one shared experience, and I think that’s something that we really value. I don’t think it is, I know it is! That experience together creates a much more powerful energy than we feel it does when you separate people. So we take that philosophy to how we allow our audience and our filmmakers and the athletes and the community to really come together and share in that experience. There are very few boundaries between the special guests and the audience. And we really encourage that. We feel the best experience at 5Point is when you leave having met new people and hearing these amazing stories you find that it’s not just happening on the screen. It’s happening in conversation over dinner or at the coffee shop in the morning. And also just giving people the opportunity to enjoy the place.

Carbondale is a really special little paradise, and we want people to get out and enjoy it while they’re here, whether it’s just walking down Main Street or hiking up Red Hill or going for a backcountry ski in the morning, if there’s still some snow around after all this warm weather. But that’s part of the experience as well.

JM: Tell us about the program for 2013. What we can we expect that might be new or dramatically different from last year.

SW: I think we continue to explore our definition of adventure. And I think that’s something that we really want our audience to do for themselves. What we’re very, very excited about are a couple of pieces that we have helped produce. One of those things is by Duct Tape and Then Beer, Fitz Cahall’s production company. He did a piece on Kyle Dempster and his story of his biking adventure and climbing adventure. That’s going to be a world premiere at 5Point, and Kyle is going to be here to talk about his philosophy on life and the story behind the film—we’re really excited about that piece.

Another piece that we’re putting together is with 5Point favorite Jeremy Collins and a local bike racer and coffee shop owner here in Carbondale. We’ve put them together for a unique piece called Participate. In some ways that’s going to be a surprise to us as well because we’ve given them some direction, and they’ve had some great ideas—they’re running with it right now. But it’s not finished so we’re excited to premiere it at 5Point.

I would say that there are a couple of other pieces that are surprises to us. There’s a break-dancing piece that is totally off what people might expect. But the story is very much 5Point, very much about humility and respect. It’s called With a Piece of Chalk.

We’ve got some local films, too. We had a local photographer named Summers Moore who came to the festival last year. As a mother she brought her kids and was just fully inspired to help other kids around the valley create films that are 5Point films. She works with a Monastery school in a couple of classrooms with kids between 4th to 8th grades. They made some short films and they’re finishing the edit right now. We’re really excited to showcase those in our kids program, and hope to have people in the audience who are in the films. I know these kids are going to be totally psyched about that.

JM: So what are your goals for the future of 5Point? 

SW: 5Point is very much about the community we’re in, and we feel that if we are to do something outside of this community we need to be doing that within and a part of that community. And so when we think about our growth we’re challenged here in terms of the event itself, but we’re not necessarily challenged in the other things that we can do around the valley. We do have our Dream Project scholarship. That program has really grown as well, whether we add another scholarship to the group here or if we reach into other communities around the state. Right now the Dream Project scholarship is open to the entire valley, and we go to each school and present to them the project and let them decide how they want to apply and what projects they want to do over the summer. We have five great projects this year but we do see that as an area for growth.

But in terms of the experience and the organization of events, we’re not sure what direction that’s going to take. But we do feel we’d like to see it take a direction that’s not a typical tour as we’ve experience with some of the other players in the space. We like the idea of taking our programming and working with a community and building a one-night kind of “Taste of 5Point” somewhere and seeing how that community can grow that event. So we think our growth is going be slow, pretty steady and very meticulous in the communities we choose to work with.

Check out the complete 5Point Film Festival schedule of events online

The Joy Trip Project is made possible with the support of sponsors Patagonia, Rayovac, and the New Belgium Brewing Company

5Point Film Festival Preview: Redefining Adventure and Community

I Heart My City: Tranh Ha’s Hanoi

30 Apr

Hanoi's busy Old Quarter. (Photograph by Shawn Hughes, My Shot)

Twenty-five-year-old Hanoi native Tranh Ha Nguyen began to realize what she loved about her hometown after spending time abroad in Japan. “Hanoi is so youthful and animated,” she says. Now working as a translator, Thanh Ha spends her free time showing visiting friends around the Vietnamese capital. For those of us who can’t personally join her (at least not right now), here are a few of her favorite things about Hanoi.

Hanoi is My City

Hoan Kiem Lake. (Photograph by Isriya Paireepairit, Flickr)

Hoan Kiem Lake. (Photograph by Isriya Paireepairit, Flickr)

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is Hoan Kiem Lake, a beautiful lake in the heart of Hanoi.

Autumn is the best time to visit my city because the rains have passed, the city sparkles, and you can experience the wonder of the season through all your senses.

You can see my city best from the terrace at Café Pho Co. You’ll have to climb an old, narrow staircase to make it to the top, but it’s worth it. It’s the ideal way to see Hanoi (unless it’s raining). At night, the scene turns especially fancy.

Locals know to skip the small shops in the Old Quarter and check out the boutiques in outlying areas like Vincom, Doi Can, and Parkson instead.

Streets in the Old Quarter are the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Trinh Cong Son, My Linh, and Tran Thu Ha have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology because, aside from the main exhibits, the museum contains an array of culture and history, like Dong Ho art.

One of the traditional houses on display outside the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.  (Photograph by Mindy McAdams, Flickr)

One of the traditional houses on display outside the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. (Photograph by Mindy McAdams, Flickr)

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you can rent a motorbike. Ride around Hanoi and see it like a true local. The city is, after all, abuzz with them.

The best places to spend time outdoors in my city are Bach Thao Park, the botanical garden, or at the fishing spots near Gia Lam (which are the perfect places to have a picnic with friends).

My city really knows how to celebrate spring. May Day, Liberation Day , and Ho Chi Minh‘s birthday are an important part of the season.

You can tell someone is from my city if they are romantic, humorous, radical, and love all things antique. And if they consider dried fruit to be Vietnam’s specialty, you know they’re from Hanoi too.

For a fancy night out, I head to Dao Duy Tu Street for the pubs, the bars, and the karaoke. Don’t forget to buy tra chanh lemon tea from a vendor and sip on it while socializing with some friends, just like the locals do.

Just outside my city, you can visit Ha Long Bay, Sapa, and Ha Giang.

My city is known for being rough, but it’s really an effervescent place, full of culture and open-hearted people.

The best outdoor market in my city is Hang Be Market.

Hanoi's signature dish: bun cha. (Photograph by Stu_Spivack, Flickr)

Hanoi’s signature dish: bun cha. (Photograph by Stu_Spivack, Flickr)

The restaurants along Doi Can are my favorite places to grab breakfast, and the areas around Dong Xuan Market  and Hang Bong are the spots for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Vietnam News.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I ride around West Lake and soak up the sights.

To escape the crowds, I find a quiet café around West Lake, too.

The dish that represents my city best is bun cha, and tra chanh lemon tea is my city’s signature drink.

Keangnam Tower is my favorite building in town because it’s the symbol of Hanoi’s progress.

The Hanoi Opera House is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out the New Square nightclub.

In the spring you should visit the Temple of Literature, the various flower markets, and the vendors selling goods for the Lunar New Year.

The Temple of Literature. (Photograph by Deep Goswami, Flickr)

The Temple of Literature. (Photograph by Deep Goswami, Flickr)

In the summer you should jog around West Lake, enjoy Vietnamese noodles and seafood, savor ice cream at Trang Tien, and feel the night breeze as you whisk through Hanoi on a motorbike.

In the fall you should take photos on Hoang Dieu street. The picturesque Thang Long Imperial Citadel sits here. Or, if you’re in the mood for some entertainment, see a show at the Hanoi Opera House.

In the winter you should take advantage of December shopping sales and indulge in the season with some fried corn or sweet potatoes.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the game center inside the Keangnam Tower.

The best book about my city is Thuong Nho Muoi Hai for those who understand Vietnamese.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”60 Nam Cuoc Doi.” 

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it’s the center of Vietnamese charm, it’s incredibly welcoming, and tourists will be greeted by friendly service no matter where they go.

I Heart My City: Tranh Ha’s Hanoi

The Radar: Travel Lately

30 Apr

The mineral-rich Champagne Pool in Wai-O-Tapu thermal park near Rotorua. (Photograph by Francesa Onesti, My Shot)

The Radar – the best of the travel blogosphere – is a regular feature on Intelligent Travel every Wednesday.

Here’s this week’s:  

  • New Zealand is known for its incredible natural beauty, and the geothermal wonder just outside Rotorua is no exception. Old Faithful, meet your match in Wai-O-Tapu. (If you’re wondering, that’s Māori for “sacred waters.”) @wanderlustersuk
  • São Paulo may be Brazil’s largest city (and the world’s eighth largest by population), but it’s often overshadowed by Rio de Janeiro, its sister city to the north. Find out why this South American metropolis is a treasure in its own right. @thismyhappiness
  • This time of year, visitors swarm Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms. But with crowds as unrelenting as a filibuster and lots of ground to cover, you’re sure to work up an appetite. Check out this guide to the best eats in “the District.” @packDsuitcase
  • Lyon is located halfway between grande-dame Paris and the seaside swank of the Cote D’Azur. Though other French destinations have more star quality, this cultural center has its own brand of charm. @InspirngTrvlrs 
  • Only have a day to spare in Montreal? There’s no way to see everything anyway, so why not embrace it by trying the immersive approach? Check out this 24-hour guide to the heart of French Canada to get off on the right foot. @atlasobscura

The Radar: Travel Lately

Essaouira, Morocco: Africa’s Windy City

30 Apr
Essaouira alley

An alley in Essaouira. Photo credit: Mark Fischer via Flickr.

“I will give you 3,000 camels and the Sahara desert if you will be my wife,” said Mohammed, our young, dark-haired Moroccan guide, as he looked at me with soulful brown eyes.

I bit my lip to keep from smiling.  Then I thanked him, assuring him I would consider his offer if I could fit the camels on the airplane. This didn’t deter him from guiding my friends and I back to the exit of the Medina, the old native quarter, and, to my surprise, not once did he implore us to visit his friends’ shops before we left.

This was Essaouira (pronounced ess-ow-EE-ra), a peaceful, friendly seaside resort on Morocco’s southern Atlantic coast, where life and hustlers move more slowly than in larger Moroccan cities and tourists can browse shops without feeling harassed.

You’ll find Essaouira, which is amazingly inexpensive, safe, and exotic, to be one of the most relaxed, likeable resorts in Morocco. This gentle city, surrounded by white walls and fringed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, is especially popular with independent travelers and a few in-the-know Europeans, but it remains largely undiscovered by most travelers.


The streets can get busy with the hustle and bustle of tourists and townspeople. Photo courtesy of Melody Moser.

The alizee

In this town — with its windy but mild weather, crescent beach, and interesting Medina filled with stonework and blue-shuttered houses – all the main tourist attractions can be reached by foot. Essaouira is attracting more and more tourists, in addition to fishing and small handicraft industries.

The town promotes itself as “Windy city, Africa,” and indeed, the wind, known locally as the alizee, can be fierce, and while not ideal for sunbathing, the waves it creates are coveted by surfers and windsurfers. The sea swell is bigger in winter, the wind stronger in summer, and a wetsuit is necessary year-round.

A good place to stay is the Hotel des Iles, conveniently located outside the Medina and across the street from the beach. With its bungalow-style rooms built around a large swimming pool, it’s an ideal base for exploring the town.  Each night the wind will howl outside your window, as if to tell you it’s still there. In the mornings, you’ll awake to the call of the muezzin, reminding you that you’re in exotic Africa and an exciting new day is beginning.

Fortified place

Essaouira fort

Essaouira’s fort. Photo credit: mwanasimba via Flickr.

With its dramatic fortifications and sea bastions, Essaouira seems older than it actually is. And while the town began in the 7th century as a small Phoenician settlement, it wasn’t until the 15th century that the Portuguese occupied it and built the fortifications around the harbor.

They called the town “Mogador,” from the Berber word amegdul meaning “well-protected.” In 1765 the Alawite sultan Sidi Mohammed Ibn Abdellah transformed it into an important commercial port, and, following Moroccan independence from France in 1956, Mogador was named Essaouira, which comes from the Arabic es saouira, meaning “fortified place.”

Since then, Essaouira has drawn poets, scholars and craftsmen from all over Morocco. You’ll find evidence of this throughout the Medina as you explore art galleries and wood workshops and examine wares such as carpets and silver jewelry.

The Sidi Mohammed Ibn Abdellah Museum features extensive displays of many of these Moroccan handicrafts, including carpets, costumes, jewelry and musical instruments.  There, you’ll also find exquisite examples of marquetry, a craft in which the burls of thuja, a mahogany-like hardwood from a local coniferous tree, are inlayed with citron, wood, walnut, ebony, mother-of-pearl, and silver and copper wire.

The marquetry created in Essaouira is one of the best examples of the craft in Morocco, so this is a good place to buy it.  Many of the good quality pieces you’ll see elsewhere are originally from here.

Castles in the Sand

Mint tea

Moroccan mint tea. Photo credit: Olve Utne via Wikimedia Commons.

In the 1960s, the town attracted many hippies and their icons, including rock star Jimi Hendrix, whose song “Castles in the Sand” was supposedly inspired by the buried ruins of an 18th-century palace on a beach south of town.

Across the bay lie the Iles Purpuraires, named for the rich purple dyes used to color the imperial cloth the Romans once produced here. At one point, the largest island, Ile de Mogador, held a prison. Today, it’s a nature reserve, the only non-Mediterranean breeding site of the dramatic Eleonora’s Falcon, which, during early summer evenings, you may be able to view with binoculars from Essaouira’s beach.

After touring the Medina, take a break in the town’s main square, Place Prince Moulay El Hassan, where you can sip Moroccan mint tea, a combination of fresh mint, green tea and heavy doses of sugar. The square is a great place to people-watch; you’ll see young men with long hair and dreadlocks, tourists of various nationalities, and Moroccan men and women dressed in the djellaba, a hooded caftan, going about their daily activities.

Rows of Grills

Essaouira boats

Rows of boats in Essaouira’s harbor. Photo credit: Seabird NZ via Flickr.

Essaouira’s port is a colorful, busy area where gaily painted trawlers in vibrant shades of red and blue are built of teak and eucalyptus in the tradition of ancient dhows. The lively port is situated at the foot of the town’s ramparts and at the end of a long, sandy beach.

Chez Sam — Restaurant du Port, a seafood restaurant at the seaward end of the harbor, is an ideal spot for lunch. Try the garlic shrimp, which is plentiful and tasty. The service is friendly and efficient, and most tables offer nice harbor views — you can dine while watching brightly colored fishing boats arrive and depart. Feline lovers will enjoy the many cats that greet you outside Chez Sam; they no doubt are well fed on the establishment’s leftovers.

If you’re not interested in eating at one of Essaouira’s many restaurants, the port’s grills are a good place to find an informal lunch or early dinner. Merchants set up the grills in rows outdoors — take a seat at an umbrella-shaded, communal table, choose your fish, and watch while the freshest seafood meal around is grilled before your eyes.

Pirates and the Portuguese

Cat in Essaouira

A cat cozies up to one of the many rugs a merchant has out for sale. Photo courtesy of Melody Moser.

After lunch, return to the Medina, which is enclosed by walls. After paying a small fee at the kiosk near the Port de la Marine, you can climb the town’s ramparts, the Skala du Port — an old Portuguese sea defense and battery.

Here, cannons still point outwards, beyond the lichen-covered rocks and churning sea-spray, for this part of the Barbary Coast was once plagued by pirates and Portuguese men-of war.

Although Essaouira is a quiet fishing town today, up here, with a brisk wind blowing and panoramic views of the sea, it’s easy to imagine the days of old when piracy and plunder were the norm. Today, visitors climb up here to relax and enjoy the views of the town’s Kasbah, Medina, and Mellah quarters and the waves crashing on craggy rocks below.

After descending from the Skala, stroll through the spice and jewelry markets, where young merchants will find many ways to entice you to stay. One such merchant placed a small lizard on my shoulder. After a few moments, I managed to gently pry “Charlie” loose and return him to his grinning owner before dashing after my companions.

Two days in Essaouira will help to recharge your body and renew your spirits before you move on to the busier, faster-paced Moroccan cities. For me, it was a peaceful, relaxing time I would happily remember, even when I had to return home without Mohammed’s 3,000 camels.

Essaouira, Morocco: Africa’s Windy City

Oahu Submarine Scooter Adventure

30 Apr
A couple enjoying the Scooter Adventure.

A couple enjoying the Scooter Adventure.

If you’ve ever wanted to swim with the fishes but felt nervous about your skill level and knowledge of the underwater world, the Oahu submarine scooter adventure is a great way to explore under the sea without any dive experience. I got the chance to go on a two hour adventure out in the beautiful Maunalua Bay, just off of Hawaii Kai, motoring around on an underwater submarine scooter in 30 feet of clear blue water.

Captain Joey giving instructions

Captain Joey giving instructions

The tour started off as we boarded a large 40ft two-story vessel, and headed out to sea. Captain Joey manned the boat, while safety divers and crew, Mike and Kellen provided details of what to expect from the experience, as well as sharing Hawaiian folklore about historical sights. I took in the 360 degree view, with the distinct and iconic outline of Diamond Head Crater to my right, Koko Head Crater standing out proudly back on land, and whales spouting in the distance.

The crew getting the gear ready

The crew getting the gear ready

After we arrived at our dive site, Captain Joey brief us on how to operate the scooters, explaining that the scooters used the same theory as turning a glass upside down in a bucket of water, where air would remain in the space between. All we had to do was simply duck under the sub and emerge in the protected bubble, sit ourselves comfortably on the seat, press the air-controlled motor to move forward, and steer much the way we would a bike.

Safety divers

Safety divers taking photos

Three safety divers were in the water with us the entire time to make sure we were okay, and to point out wildlife and take photos for purchase after the tour. There were 14 people and five scooters in our tour group, so while some of us were underwater, the others could make use of complimentary snorkel gear or lounge on the boat and soak up the sun.

Sea Turtle swimming nearby.

Sea Turtle swimming nearby.

Entering the water on my scooter was a surreal experience. The fish swam toward me and I felt like I was in a giant aquarium, with colorful fish and sea turtles at arm’s reach. Kellen took photos and showed me various sea life, communicating with me through underwater motions. Turtles slowly glided by as I motored around and checked out the coral and sea urchins on the ocean’s floor and watched colorful fish swim under the waves.

Oahu Submarine Scooter Adventure