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Mike's Around-The-World Trip Update #8 - 7.24.2004
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my plane landed in yet another country, the 10th of
this trip, and i shuffled toward customs. while in
line volunteers dressed as cowboys greeted me and my
fellow passengers with sheriff badges, smiles and warm
welcomes, made me smile too. the colorful flags of
the country hung proudly throughout the room....lots
of spirit. the customs official and i had the talk,
he welcomed me to his country, asked me how i enjoyed
myself in the places i had visited and finally wished
me well on my journey. damn nice folks so far. i had
an issue with the baggage handlers according to a p.a.
announcement so i went off to see them. no problem
after all, i had my bags. they were happy i did,
laughed a bit and wished me well on my journey. damn,
what nice folks.

i rented a convertible chrysler sebring, threw my
stuff in the back and headed for the brilliant
mountains standing tall behind the city. the stunning
scenery of this new country impressed me. i made a
phone call to a friend and headed for the bar she was
hanging out at. i had a pint of local beer, much
different than the guinness i had been drinking in
ireland but still quite tasty. i stayed with a
college pal of mine, the striking blond karin - well
she's sorta homeless now so we actually stayed with
her aunt durea. had a couple of fun nights hanging in
her hometown and then took off to meet more friends in
a college town up the road. great mexican food in
this country, fantastic burgers too.

a pedestrianized street cuts straight through the
downtown and is filled with bars, cafes,
street-performers, sun and gorgeous mountain views
which we enjoyed as we strolled through town. we had
a great couple days there, hanging out at a waterfall
in a nearby canyon, playing aerobie and drinking beers
at a park at the base of the mountains, buying inner
tubes and riding them down a charging mountain creek
and finally visiting a spectacular national park for
an afternoon's drive. we ran out of gas in my
convertible at the highest and halfway point of the
park; fortunately we were able to coast all the way
downhill into town to a gas station.

i left the next day to explore some more of the
country on my own. i had been told that the country i
was in lacked history. i thought of this as i toured
a national park preserving cliff dwellings of the
indigenous people, stone houses over 1400 years old
built into the walls of a canyon. no history? hmmm,
interesting. the day before i was in another national
park staring at an ancient riverbed containing
fossilized bone after bone of 155 million year old
dinosaurs; that is history to me.

friendly people, stunning scenery, endless
recreational activities, fascinating history...what
new country was this?

none other than my home: the united states of america.


specifically i was in colorado, utah and new mexico.
the reason for my visit was to attend the wedding of
jason martino, one of my closest friends from chicago.
along the way i was able to hang out with karin in
denver, jason and jessica (his fiancee) in boulder and
my niece in santa fe. we spent two days in boulder,
colorado then i went off on my own for a long road
trip to northwestern colorado/northeastern utah to see
dinosaur national monument which boasts the largest
quarry of dinosaur fossils ever found, not to mention
some stunning canyon scenery and surreal landscapes.
i spent the night along the green river in my tent.

the next day i was off to perhaps my favorite town in
the world: telluride, colorado. i believe i will live
in that town someday. no franchises, no strip malls,
no urban sprawl; just a small old western town
surrounded by mountain peaks, waterfalls and crisp
mountain air. i love it. telluride's charms were
hard to resist - i almost canceled the rest of my
around-the-world trip and bought a house. i spent the
night in my tent pitched in the town park along a
mountain river.

the next day i headed for new mexico to visit my niece
in espanola and then to the wedding. i tell you, the
roads in colorado should charge admission: the scenery
they cut through is astounding. around every corner
is another scene that drops your jaw and makes you
(makes me at least) want to build a house so you can
enjoy it everyday forever. colorado is my favorite
state in the united states. i stopped in mesa verde
national park and took a few hours to marvel at the
indian cliff dwellings that i mentioned earlier. you
are permitted to walk into some of the houses hanging
off the edge of a cliff. they really are quite
amazing especially considering where they are built,
how well they are preserved and how the people built
them. in the evening i met my niece at her place, a
cool looking southwestern-style bungalow in a rural
part of espanola about 20 miles north of santa fe.
rachel and i haven't spent much time together in the
last several years so it felt like i was getting to
know her all over again. i tell you i couldn't have
been more proud: she is a joy to be around, always
smiling and laughing. she has a great job, is very
smart and responsible, is well-traveled and even
taught her uncle michael a few things. i bought this
apple macintosh powerbook computer on which i am
typing almost solely on my niece's advice. anyway,
tip of my hat to you rachel: you kick ass.

on friday we headed to santa fe to see the downtown.
i felt like i was overseas again. very different city
than many in america; a central square is the heart of
the town and brown adobe buildings surround it housing
galleries, cool restaurants and interesting shops. we
walked around, had some lunch and then stepped into
some of santa fe's many art galleries. rachel is
taking a drawing class (she's great at it, sketching
in black and gray pencil) and wanted to see her
teacher's art. galleries have never really been my
thing because they seem pretentious and exclusive but
i didn't get that feeling this time. at 5 that
evening we ended up going on a gallery tour along
canyon avenue. we quaffed a bunch of free drinks and
gazed upon some amazing art, paintings that should
hang in a museum. we met up with jason and the other
wedding folks that evening at the bishop's lodge
resort where the wedding was to take place. it is a
wonderful resort hidden from the road buried beneath
trees and mesas in the mountains north of santa fe.
the pool was a welcome refuge from the hot desert air.
jason had a party on the deck outside his palatial
room.

the next two days were the wedding. saturday night
rehearsal dinner at a place called the cowgirl saloon,
the wedding and reception at the bishop's lodge on
sunday. after the cowgirl, jason, his buddies and i
headed back to jason's room to play a game called
"bite the bag"; they had been talking about the game
all night. here's how you play: find a brown paper
bag, throw it on the floor, find a bunch of drunk
stupid guys then have a contest to see who can pick
the bag up off the floor using only his teeth without
falling over; no kneeling, no hands. when you
succeed, take a bite out of the bag and throw down
what's left for the next guy's turn. the bag gets
smaller with each bite and therefore harder to snatch
up off the floor. last guy to grab the bag (or what's
left of it) wins. i learned that evening of a special
clause whereby a contestant can go for the win by
eating the remainder of the bag and keeping it down
for at least a half hour. i was hanging out with many
of jason's friends i hadn't met before so of course i
wanted to impress them and nothing impresses a bunch
of drunk strangers like eating a dirty bag off a
floor. my god i have no idea where that bag came from
or what was in it - i don't ever want to know. i have
attached a couple pictures to show you how much bag we
are talking about. to finish it took me an hour
during which i doubted myself several times but was
egged on by all the side-bets against me and the
intimidating warnings of what a bag will do to a man's
stomach - they couldn't rattle me. i chewed and
chewed and finally swallowed to the delight of the
crowd. those who doubted me handed over their
hard-earned money to those who didn't and i headed for
bed. 1 hour later i was in the bathroom my body
rejecting my evening's meal of brown paper. tasted a
lot worse going out than it did going in. i announced
the next morning at the pool that i was retiring,
although retiring a legend. throughout the rest of
the weekend people brought it up now and then. i had
made the impression i had hoped i would. my parents
would be so proud.

it took me all day to shake my bag hangover but i was
ready when the wedding started up at 4 in the
afternoon. what a beautiful multi-faith service it
was; american indian, hindu, buddhist, catholic and
jewish religions all perfectly merged into a moving
ceremony. not many dry eyes in the house. the
reception was very fun with a mexican band complete
with conga drums, horn players and fantastic singers.
they kept the crowd shaking. later that night, my
roommate goofy and i had a party along with jason's
brother jeremy and jason's sister elayna. we occupied
three adjacent rooms which shared a common
deck/balcony overlooking the resort. lots of folks
showed up and we rocked all night. after the crowds
cleared goofy and i laid out on the deck on chaise
lounges in our bathrobes admiring the milky way which
stretched in white brilliance across the new mexico
sky.

i hung out for a couple more days, saw my niece again
for a last mexican meal (you can't get good mexican in
europe), hung with karin for a night and then boarded
a plane to london. i loved hanging out in my native
land and seeing some friends but i was very excited to
get back to my trip; i love this so much, this new
lifestyle. i missed it.

so hello from london. i am at my buddy andrew's place
again. he is throwing a party tonight which i look
forward to. i will start cycling on monday morning
for newcastle, england where i will catch a ferry to
bergen, norway to begin my ride across scandinavia. i
promise to send you lots of pictures.

since i last updated you, i cycled through ireland,
northern ireland and wales. i rode about 1100 miles
through those countries so i was ready for the break
jason's wedding provided me. in ireland i started in
cork in the south and rode the entire west coast all
the way to northern ireland. i then crossed northern
ireland cycling along the north coast and then down
the east coast to belfast. i took a train to dublin
and then a ferry from there to wales. i cycled all
the way across wales to shrewsbury, england where i
caught a train back to london. i will update you more
on what i've done in the last month and a half in
random thoughts emails because i obviously have sent
you a lot of words already but only glossed over that
part of my trip.

i will write a little more often now that i have a
computer of my own and will send at least one picture
with each update since i have a new camera that works
seamlessly with my computer.

attached pictures: 1. me at jason's rehearsal dinner,
included so you can see what i look like 4 months into
my trip. 2. me starting to chew
on the piece of bag i eventually swallowed. 3. jason
showing me jessica's ring at the bottom of boulder
falls in boulder, colorado.

keep on keepin' on,
mike


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