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I last left you guys/gals swimming far away in the Pacific and thought it only polite to bring you back home once more, so the balence of the trip follows. I wish I could have given the full measure and breath of my experiences over the past few months but that would have required a tome rather than a series of posts. Thank you for your indulgence in this experiment and I wish each of you good travels in your juirney through life. With apologies to Dean Koontz (butchered from "Life Expectancies":

One should be motivated not by the actions of others, not by envy, not by a conviction of moral superiority, but by life's possibilities. When we fail to see the eccentricities in ourselves and be amused by them, we become monsters of self regard. We should not edit ourselves to impress others and should avoid the pull of the mindless herd, the allure of the pack. We should resist the extreme effects of this influance and when we don't we drag our societies into the wreckage of failed utopias rather than cherish the gift of our indeviduality.

Couple of forgotten notes:
The ship pays close attention to cleanliness. For the first two days out of an embarkation port, passengers are not allowed to take their own food at buffets, but the food is behind Plexiglass barriers and is dished out by stewards. The ship has hundreds of alcohol disincentive dispensers in all passenger gathering areas, outside restrooms, etc. As you enter the ship or the dining room there is a guy squirting the goop into your hand. Despite that, each cruise runs a pretty good chance of some low level respiratory virus passing through all the new passengers, but I have to give them “A for effort”.

Somehow Fiji water has gained a foothold in the US market. I’m sure there is some huge source of crystal clear, clean water somewhere on Fiji to supply this huge market. That said, I did not see one.

As we passed the equator, the members of the crew and staff were subjected to a “traditional” ceremony in front of the passengers (unfortunately passenger pollywogs were not invited to participate for liability reasons). As I have previously been sworn to secrecy by King Neptune himself, I am not at liberty to discuss the festivities but for those who are familiar with the procedure, I can assure you that it was appropriately and imaginatively handled.

Well here we are in the paradise that Hawaii is on Oahu. OK, admittedly by now I’m a bit jaded and it takes more than palm trees and beaches to get my blood stirring, (and we had previously seen the “Pearl Harbor”sites) but Hawaii is still a pretty unique place. While everyone on the ship seemed to make a bee-line for touristy shops (like Honolulu Haddy’s) and Wall-Mart. I have to admit that my record of being a Wall-Mart virgin was strained by peer pressure but circumstances interfered and I never entered the place. (As an explanation: NYC doesn’t have Wall-Marts and though I own stock in the company and have heard the siren songs of comparisons to Nordstrom’s, Neman Marcus and Bloomingdales over the years, I’ve yet to enter one of their magnificent emporiums of blatant mercantilism). We decided to rent a car and drive in a circle around the island. The route is extremely scenic with views of surf breaking over rocks to rival those north of Big Sur in California. As we started to it the surfing beaches in the north, we got out at Sunset Beach to watch the surfers tune up for Van’s World Cup of Surfing. Then we hit Bonzai Beach of pipeline fame. We ate a nice seafood lunch as a small restaurant in a marina surrounded by surfing equipment shops. Next we hit a supermarket for some 100% Kona peaberry coffee ($10 a pound but life is short and the coffee is good) and a few of bottles of wine to replenish the larder. We circled back to the ship and prepared for the final five days at sea to Los Angeles.

On wine drinking: Those who know me know that I’m not much of a drinker. I’m not a tea-totaler, but rarely (almost never) drink any “hard stuff”, maybe a case or two of beer and a few bottles of wine a year at home. When out with friends or at an affair I’ll have a glass of wine (or drink) or two. There are red and white wines that I like better than others, but that taste does not seem to be price dependent. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, the people we were traveling with were REALLY into wine. Between the six of us (I’d say 5.25 of us as my wife didn’t participate much in this bacchanalia) we put away 16-20 cases of wine in 10 weeks (hard to be sure because of the shore replenishment, wine won on-board, etc.). These guys traveled with their own special wine glasses (in the fashion of golfers who take their own clubs, pool players who bring their own cue sticks, scuba divers who lug their own weights and tanks and Argentines who bring their own steak knives to barbeques). After a lot of patient explanation on their part of the benefits, I borrowed a couple from the ship’s fancy dining room and did notice a bit of a difference as the evaporated wine did get into the nose better. The glasses are delicate (one of them broke one, but had a spare), so I don’t see the point of traveling with them rather than borrowing them – though I’m told the specific shape makes some sort of a difference as well – who knows).

I am told that some of the wine brought by our traveling companions was very expensive and fine. The sommelier on the ship seemed to reinforce that. Admittedly it was good, but frankly so was some of the $10-15 a bottle stuff so either I’m proficient (more likely lucky) at picking good values off the rack at Safeway or I remain a Philistine who can’t tell the difference. Anyway, I’ve drunk more wine over the past 2-3 months than over the rest of my life and have not changed my opinions much (but did learn the names of a few labels which seem to impress others).

Before we left, I made the decision to spend a night in Los Angeles rather than run right back to the East Coast. Probably, in retrospect, it was a waste of money and time, but it wasn’t a show stopper and allowed a breather before the flight. We stayed in Hollywood (I think – didn’t see the streets populated with movie stars, but there was a large Macy’s where I seem to remember a seedy neighborhood a couple of decades ago). We stayed at the Hotel Elan on Beverly Blvd. (chosen after reading multiple reviews on a popular travel web site). While a bit Spartan, it was reasonably priced ($200 including all the taxes) for a major metropolitan area, clean, had a comfortable bed, free Wi-Fi and business center, included not only a breakfast but a two hour wine and cheese hour (red was a low end Aussie Penfolds and the white a decent Napa Valley chardonnay – who says I can’t be taught). The front desk (in fact all the employees) were so intent on being helpful as to be bordering on being obsequious. Downside was valet parking clocked in at $24, but that’s life in the big city.

Plane left late because of rain in NYC and then one of the passengers (Alec Baldwin) had to be removed due to inappropriate activities (whatever those were). Hopefully we did a good job on the refrigerator and will not be greeted by science fair projects – we’ll see (written on flight back).

Got home to all the rain we missed in over 10 weeks of travel. Car’s battery was deader than Kelsey’s nuts and three large bags of mail (about 2/3 junk and not a few financial worms to unravel).
So the question is would I do it again? Yup. So what’s the encore (more like the dance card)?
We have a 10 day cruise scheduled over Xmas and New Years (set up a few months ago) and then the rest of 2012 is barren. There is a 29 day cruise from Dubai to Capetown (I think next Novemberish). I’d like to try t spend the summer in Europe (on a mixture of a couple of river cruises – which we have not tried before – and more traditional driving/training around. The alternative is to spend the time (or part of it) in Uzbekistan and western China. This will let us get to India about a month before the cruise. I figure we can spend a couple of weeks floating around in Rajasthan (by high end train, sleeping in palaces). Then a stop to relax on the beach in Goa. Then a jaunt to the south for as bit, sweeping back north to the Taj Mahal. A short flight from New Delhi to Mumbai should set up the flight to pick u[p the cruise after a hop to Dubai. Capetown will be the start of a month or two of driving up the Garden Road, a hop to Kruger for an obligatory safari out of Sabi Sands. Then a bit in Batswana and Mozambique at a friend’s place (and of course a stop at Victoria Falls and maybe another animal thing – Xmas and New Year probably somewhere in Africa) then a hop to London to pick up an 88 day cruise to Singapore (through the Suez Canal) and back. A short flight to NYC will let us rest up in preparation for a run across Canada (mostly by train) with stops in Banff, Jasper, etc. for a bit of a stay in Vancouver before starting on a 70+ day cruise to a bunch of dots in the Pacific that I’ve never heard of, but have to do with WWII battles and bases. I figure if nothing else the diving and beaches should be good. That sort of brings us through nearly the end of 2013. Not all of this is reserved and a lot is subject to change but without belaboring it in the future I just wanted to explain why I may seem to fall off the face of the earth every now and then. The two dates I need to be around are when taxes are due and when my apartment lease is up for renewal; else I suspect I’ll be on the road much of the time. I will be working over the next few weeks to set up a mail/phone/internet infrastructure which will let me get away with that.

Anyhow, the recanting of my last trip for your pleasure has been fun and now I have to get serious about getting back into the swing of things and reading a few months of back posts and bringing my financial models back up to date (UGG!)

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