You have to get it there

Krest Bitter Lemon bottle

Krest Bitter Lemon is a drink that’s widely available in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

While living in Kenya for five years, I developed a taste for the drink. It’s bright, refreshing and not too sweet.

But you can’t buy it in my town in Colorado, no matter how hard you try.


You need to travel. You’ll see, feel and taste things that you won’t experience in your hometown. Guaranteed, you will encounter life in ways you can’t where you live.

Travel can be expensive, but it’s a better way to hit the reset button than almost anything else I know.


Footnotes:

  1. My son Benjamin brought this plastic Krest bottle back after his time in Uganda during the summer of 2015. When he brought it, there was liquid inside. That wasn’t for long.
  2. Krest (and Schweppes) Bitter Lemon originally contained quinine, a malaria preventative substance.
  3. My post at My Part of Nairobi about Krest Bitter Lemon received more visits than any other post in history. Here’s why.
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Portland

Portland is a crazy place.

(We just returned from a family vacation that included a few days in Portland.)

I knew that I wanted to get to know the city ever since seeing Portlandia.

I was not disappointed.


Plus:
  • Powell’s is perhaps the finest bookstore on the planet. Besides stocking an amazing range of books (both new and used), they have the most incredible array of stuff from interesting water bottles to funky backpacks to weird socks.
  • Food trucks (often food trailers): a huge collection of semi-fast food outlets are all over the Portland, often in collections filling whole city blocks. Wide offerings of ethnic cuisine are available.
  • hipster lampShops: If I were rich, I would have gorged on the incredible variety of clothing, trinkets, hand-made art in many useful forms such as furniture and all manner of hipster-oriented stuff. One of my favorite shops was Boys Fort.
  • Bicycling: In spite of the generally dreary weather, bicycling is a huge part of life in Portland. Bike paths are prevalent across the city, and as our Airbnb hostess explained, bicyclists there often feel like they rule the world, whether or not that is the case.
  • The river: Bike paths go along the Willamette River, allowing you to explore the waterway without getting wet (unless it’s raining).
Minus:
  • Trash: There are very few trash cans around the city. Thus, trash accumulates in all the nooks and crannies. Seattle, in comparison, seems to have a normal amount of places to dispose of your waste.
  • Homelessness: I’m not sure what attracts so many homeless people to Portland. Denver, the city near my suburban home, seems to have a smaller homeless population. I have nothing against homeless people — drug addiction and mental illness are crippling — but perhaps Denver provides more places for the homeless to find a home. Or possibly Colorado has more restrictive laws governing homeless activities (like no sleeping on sidewalks).
  • Maybe a little too much indie-hipster-ness: Though I love supporting small businesses and appreciate creativity, I was almost overwhelmed at the extreme hipster-ness of Portland. One morning, I even wanted to visit Starbucks, believe it or not.

If you can, you simply must visit greater Portland.

Footnote: I only spent a few days there, so these are just a few surface observations.

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How to ride a bicycle

Three simple things can make your bike riding much safer and easier:

  1. bike-tip-1Take the palm of your hand and hit the front of your bicycle helmet. If it goes up more than one inch, you need to tighten the strap. Otherwise, if you wreck and land on the front of your helmet, you won’t land on the front of your hemet — you’ll land on the front of your head.
  2. bike-tip-2Spin your pedals between 60–90 revolutions per minute. If you are not pedaling that fast, you are hurting your knees and reducing your efficiency. All you need to do is select a lower gear. If you don’t want to time yourself, here’s a 5-second video that shows about how fast that is. No need to be too strict about this. — it’s fine to pedal slower part of the time.
  3. bike-tip-3Listen to your chain. If it’s squealing, it’s not happy. You need to give it some lubrication. The best kinds I’ve found are teflon-based lubes, such as this one. They last fairly long and do not attract too much dirt.
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Off the beaten path

off-the-beaten-pathThis summer seems like a long time ago. The leaves have already left most trees, we must sleep under a thick comforter at night, and nights are much longer. So I dug into the summer photos and came across this one.

We were at Yellowstone National Park. We stopped along one of the main roads at a hot spring. Walkways with guardrails surround that geothermal feature to keep the average person safe from harm. We decided to walk down the river about half a mile and follow the river bank to a place where we could safely wade around in the hot spring-fed river without getting burned.

The vast majority of the visitors to the park never experience anything like that.

Step away from the main road. Enjoy the view from a different perspective.

(I took that photo from under one of the boardwalks.)

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We love confined spaces

Christmas bulb Christmas treeWhy is it that we enjoy visiting nice hotels? They offer these wonderful things:

- Less room than our homes
— Fewer snack options
— The privacy of sharing a room with your kids (if you have kids)
— Possibly a noisy heating/cooling system

And yet we love the change. It’s a different environment than that of our normal life. Those little soaps and shampoos are amazing. And staying in a hotel means travel, if you like travel.

Disclaimer: This post does not apply to business travelers who are totally burned-out on staying in hotels.

Image info: I took this photo in the Gaylord Texan, a resort hotel very close to where my sister used to live. It’s an experience.

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Travel to get perspective

London in the summer of 2011It has been a while since we left the state. We need to get away. It’s so important to remove ourselves from our normal lives to regain perspective. If we’re always down in the tunnel of work and daily routines, we forget what is really important.

If you can’t afford to travel away, just go to your next town. Take a day off and hang out at a restaurant or coffee shop you’ve never been to before. Try a new type of food. Visit a different aisle in the supermarket. Leave your computer at home. Don’t take your work with you. Turn off your mobile phone.

Aaaah.

(The photo is courtesy of my daughter Rachel.)

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We are so small

We are so smallIt’s always good to get perspective.

Last week, we went to Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. It’s a dramatic place — huge sand dunes are spread at the base of a larger chain of mountain peaks.

Thankfully, the weather was perfect. The wind was not blowing very much. The temperature was cool — our bare feet did not burn.

It’s always good to remember just how small we are in the scope of things.

(That’s Heather in the middle. Jay, Ben and Rachel are in the distance.)

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Seasons

ForsythiaNairobi, Kenya, is not far from the equator. We lived there for five years. Since the elevation is close to a mile high, the climate is ideal — about 70 degrees (21c) year-around. But since the climate allows for many people to live in very easily-built and relatively inexpensive homes (mud walls and a tin roof), lots of people live there. Too many, in my humble opinion. The city’s infrastructure was built for about 300,000 — and roughly 4 million live there now.

Living further north or south necessitates having solid insulated homes.

Back to seasons — I love four seasons. Spring is now fully here. The warm weather is such a relief after a long cold winter.

Change is a good thing.

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Family skiing

On the chairlift at SolVistaHeather and I skipped work last Friday. We went skiing at SolVista. It’s a family ski area that’s not the closest to Denver, but still within easy driving distance of our home in the suburbs.

We had a great time. The slopes are gentle and smooth. Ben and I loved cruising down one slope as fast as we could — repeatedly. And it’s uncrowded, so we had no fears of any life-threatening accidents.

Rachel, our youngest, did fine, even though she hasn’t been skiing very much. She was able to drift through the trees and navigating a fun course for kids that included skiing through a small “barn.” Jay, our oldest and most adventurous son, had fun doing several stunts in the terrain park.

I know a lot of hard-core skiers and snowboarders would turn their nose up at SolVista, but we loved it. If you’re ever in Colorado and want to have some family skiing fun, SolVista’s the place.

And a final footnote — so you can tell this is not a sponsored post — if you have the cash for a ski condo, the company that runs the resort way overbuilt, so you can get one for a relative steal.

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The Champs-Elysees

Alfa Romeo MitoLast summer we went to Paris.

I don’t say that to brag. It was part of our visit to my sister and her family, who live in Belgium.

Anyhow, one afternoon, my oldest son Jay and I decided to stroll along the Champs-Elysees, a famous avenue in the city known for its romantic cafes and luxury specialty shops.

Needless to say, we didn’t sip coffee at a sidewalk cafe. However, we thoroughly enjoyed visiting a Fiat/Lancia/Alfa Romeo shop/museum. (Jay is next to the wonderful Alfa Romeo Mito, a car that sadly won’t be making it to the USA.)

Arc De Triomphe wedding photoOne surreal moment was seeing scores of Chinese people getting wedding pictures taken in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

The point of this story? My romantic dream of experiencing The Champs-Elysees involved a leisurely brunch at one of those cafes. That didn’t happen. What did happen may have been even better — a fun afternoon with my son that we’ll probably both remember for the rest of our lives.

p.s. Heather and I did enjoy a romantic evening in Paris. We had dessert at a divey bar, not on the Champs-Elysees.

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