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Jim Friend: Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska Marine Highway
Story & Photographs by Jim Friend

map of the Alaska Marine Highway

ey man, I know how it is. I really do. Sometimes you just don't want to spend $1,500 a week on a cruise ship to see some spectacular bidness. That's fine, it really is. If that's your story, and you really want to get out of the house this summer and take a great vacation with a budget in mind along the western coast of say, Canada and Alaska, for example, conveniently located geographically just outside of the evil clutches of the former Soviet empire, then an Alaska Marine Highway vacation is for you. I'm telling you what. It certainly is.

bear
Valiant loser of the Great Alaskan Souvenir War

The Alaska Marine Highway is essentially a network of ships that will take you, your bike, your dogs and cats, and your car or RV, and everything in-between on a trip all the way from Bellingham, Washington to Dutch Harbor, Alaska; and to-and-from all of about 30 ports-of-call betwixt. You can either plan your whole trip a year ahead of time and make reservations, or you can just show up at the dock, buy a ticket and you're off. It's really like a city bus system, but on the water, but with the potential for literally traveling for thousands of miles on that bus if you like: Up to 3,500 miles to be exact. Wow. And it's cheap. Not as cheap as a bus, or with as interesting company maybe, but you know what I mean

houses in Petersburg, one of the short-day excursions on the Alaska Marine Highway
Petersburg paradiso, on one of the many short day-excursions from the ship. Someone please cut down that tree in the foreground.

the Columbia, one of the Alaska Marine Highway ships
The Columbia, ship of legend and sometimes ill-repute, its bow bristling with polonium darts shot from the natives along the shore.

Depending on how you want to do things, you can get on any Alaska Marine Highway (unto-herefore thus referred to as the AMH) ship with a backpack and a sleeping bag and you're fine. Yes, you can rock your stinky little hippy derriere all the way to the end of the line and back sleeping on the deck, nibbling only upon the large organic wheat germ cracker and free-range, Rattus Rattus brand, hemp-flavored, dried brown "bandicoot" you tucked away into your rucksack back at Reed College. Or, you can roll onboard like a Russian oligarch in your diamond-encrusted Bulgarian luxury Unicat RV and rent a private cabin to sleep the night away on your Uzbekstanian-goose-feather-like down mattress, nestled amidst the bulk of your sparkling Faberge egg collection, all the while squirting Acqua di Colonia Russa all over your underwear-clad hind end until your entire caviar-bloated body smells like a lusty Putin.*

view of the port of Petersburg from the Columbia
Another beautiful Alaskan port on another beautiful day. The Vikings would have burned it to the ground.

a couple and a canoe at the Mendenhall glacier
A man and his canoe, it's a beautiful thing. Plus some chick stealing stuff from him, which by definition means she's his wife. Ooooo it stings, doesn't it?

Dang it I got off track. We were talking about budgets and money and stuff. That's the nice thing about the AMH system: you can go low-brau or high-brau. You can even go Lowenbrau if you like, because there are some really weird looking 1982 vintage bars on the ships if you want to slick down your tooter with a full range of organic compounds in which the hydroxy functional group (-OH) is bound to the carbon atom (we're talking about King Alcohol here), served to you by the last unionized bartenders left on the face of the earth, whom you are prohibited by law from tipping. (Strange but true, there is a sign on the wall that forbids this clearly.) Maybe that's why I'm so interested in Russians right now, because now that I think about it, our bartender was Big Boss of New Communist Alaska, or so he imagined. This fellow wouldst launch into a fist-pounding Politburo-style tirade about man-made global warming several of the other derisive ideologies you went in the bar to avoid thinking about in the first place, nearly spoiling your Doomsday Preppers conversation with the fellow next to you, not to mention your mutually acquired Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull buzz. Maybe you'll run into him too. Best of luck.

tourists relaxing at the Mendenhall Glacier
YES. These people deserve a Nobel Prize in Vacationeering. Mendenhall Glacier, outside of Juneau.

Anyway, yes, so now that you know that you can rock an AMH trip fully planned (or not), or on a budget (or not), now we can get on to other things. As I said before, you have a number of sleeping options. A lot of people literally set up their tents on the deck. There are a couple of different sections on the aft deck (depending on which particular ship you travel aboard), where you can camp out under the stars, or under the heated outdoor room of the solarium which, as suggested, is sheltered and even has heat lamps to keep you from dying of frostbite. Just kidding about that last part, but it does have heat lamps. You can also claim a section of seats in the movie theater inside the ship, and after "lights out" at around 11pm, you can pull all the cushions off the bottom of the three recliner chairs and put them together for a perfect, 6 foot long improvised mattress. That's what I did, and I slept like a baby. Man, the AMH people think of everything. You can even crash out on one of the several couches scattered about through the ship. Yes, it's sort of like a flop house. Or your house. However you want to say it.

map of a ship on the Alaska Marine Highway
Most of the ships are so big they have maps to tell you how to get to the harpoon stations when the "whale alarm" goes off.

As far as other traveling arrangements go, as I understand it, most of these ships have cafeterias where you can order up roasted herb venison and braised peacock livers, but maybe more like hamburgers and that sort of intestinal fare. As I recall, I got out of there for about $10 a meal, nothing serious. It's a breakfast, lunch, and dinner option. When you're not nearly choking to death while lapsing into a oxygen-deprived sleep-apnea reverie (sleeping), or laying on your back on the cafeteria floor forking whipped-cream-soaked green jello into your beak by the cubic liter (eating), you'll be enjoying the amazing scenery, which is everywhere. It goes by all day and all night at about 15 knots. Along the way, there are a lot of different towns serviced, at which the ship will usually dock for several hours at a time, giving you the opportunity to take a stroll in whatever village you happen to be in. That was great. Well, other than all the starving Alaskan children lined up outside the gangway, selling broken seashells and washed-up Japanese tsunami debris they collected on the beach. It really is a sorry sight. You get off the ship in all of your tourist splendor: Adorned in your finest "Deadliest Shirt" shirt and sash-wrapped tweed Indian Jones hat, striding confidently along in your khaki pocket-saturated shorts and neon purple crocs with the white calf-length socks underneath, ready for a Kodiak grizzly to jump out of the bushes so you can quickly subdue it with the twelve-six Billy Banks karate chop you learned in front of the TV while trying to work off those 365 creme brules you ate for dessert at the downtown diner every day after lunch this year, and then all of a sudden you have all these raggedy-ann, snot-encrusted scarecrow beggars dressed in paper mache and black garbage bag clothes they constructed from the scavengings of the local dumpsters running after you asking for a dime or whatever it is that they want. That is some really sad business right there, and it's really upsetting, and frankly I have had enough of it. Alaska needs to build a coal mine or a giant saw blade factory for all these kids to work in, and keep them out of my vacation. SHEESH.

the port at Wrangell viewed from an Alaska Marine Highway ship coming in to dock
"Alert. Battle Stations, battle stations. All tourists to prepare to invade." If you look closely you can see the beggar children lining up down by the ramp and the locals running away in fear.

Anyway, goshdang it I got off track again. Where was I? Already talked about sleep like five times and food and oh yeah, ports of call... From the end points of the AMH system, like Bellingham and Dutch Harbor, a ship will show up about once a week, so you sort of have to plan ahead that way if you're starting out on either end. At many points in-between, ships show up every day or every other day or so. I got off the ship a couple of times at the normal stops for a few hours to stretch my stork legs, but I also completely disembarked on a few occasions and spent several days in a number of cities: Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka to be exact. This brings up another point, if you really want to keep things on a budget, Alaska has a lot of hostels, which I also stayed at during my evenings off the ship. I hadn't done that since I was in my 20's, so I thought I'd try it again, and met some really awesome people. Righteous. Makes me want to howl like a savage Alaskan wolf.

visitors on a boat tour at Sitka National Park
On a day trip through the Sitka National Park. These people are either fishing, or stealing kids and dogs one at a time.

But now that I think about it, hostels remind me of hippies and commercial fishermen, to which I should add, I'm not saying a trip on the AMH is perfect. Like I alluded to much earlier as well, you might run into a hippy or two out on the deck, and yes maybe even a few odorous piscators. Nothing wrong with fishermen, unless they have a God-complex, which some of them do. But come to think of it, I used to be a hippy of sorts, then I looked in the mirror one day only to see a sour-faced, malcontented fisherman with insects living in my greazy hair. So anyway, thus mentioned to amplify that the AMH isn't just for weirdos like those-just-referred-to, you're going to run into all kinds of people: Nice folks who are moving to and from Alaska, backpackers aiming for the Yukon, pleasant car vacationers offloading at Skagway, youngsters heading to the canneries of Dillingham for the brief summer work season, Harley jacketed motorcyclists destined for Denali, the RV retiree crowd going to Nome to pan for gold, and foreigners galore trying to sneak into Our Exalted Homeland to schmooze off the multitude of Obama-care benefits we've been receiving for years now (by that I mean Canadians mostly). I didn't see a single radioactive-dart-wielding Russian on the ship though, which is about enough to tempt me into actually going back and doing it all over again. So save your pocket change and go take yourself a surprisingly mind-blowing vacation this summer. I'm telling you what. You certainly should.

bear intruding into a fenced-off area
Hey man, that's a bear scratching his back on a chain. That's off the chain!

Amazing things I saw on my three week trip, other than all the starving children:

  • A black bear swimming from island to island just off the port bow near Bella Bella.
  • A pod of Orca whales jumping from the water chasing a swarm of salmon, who were also for some reason vigorously jumping out of the water. Hmmm.
  • Humpback whales bubble net feeding and then charging up out of the water en masse at the same time. Amazing.
  • Whales spouting and breaching and throwing their tails in the air, or whatever you call that, yo. On numerous occasions.
  • More bald eagles than I care to recall (one pooped on me, and then they all attacked the ship, carrying off children and animals)

evening descending on an Alaskan port
Evening descends on Juneau. Or Ketchikan. Or somewhere, anywhere else in Alaska.

Strange things I heard on my trip (non-embellished), all from the ship's intercom:

  • "At 10:30 this morning, Father John Braccado will be holding a Catholic Mass for anyone who's interested. It will be held on floor number seven. No wait, sorry, floor six, in the bar."
  • "Paging the person who owns the Saint Bernard on the lower deck. Please come down to the lower deck immediately. Your dog has gotten loose and is running amock... for the second time today."
  • "Lost and found announcement: Someone has turned in a book called 'Bloodlust: Portrait of a Serial Killer.' If you have lost this book, please report to the purser's office."

Craziest thing that happened on the ship:
On the trip from Bellingham to Ketchikan, I was chatting with a woman who was moving from Anchorage to Klamath Falls. She was heading back up north to gather up some more of her things. We somehow got to talking about our dads and she told me that her father had died one year ago that very day. After hearing the date spoken out lout, I immediately realized that my own dad had died three years earlier to the day

sunset scene viewed from an Alaska Marine Highway ship
Typical sunset scene on the ship. If your typical sunset occurs around 11 pm.

Alaska Marine Highway System mainpage

Passenger and vehicle fares to the normal places, 2012

Passenger and vehicle fares to the Martian-ridden and Russian-infiltrated Aleutians, 2012:

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(*Disclaimer: I do not engage in such behaviors nor do I harbor any anti-Putinistic sentiments that would qualify me for a polonium dart to the diaper-depot ala Alexander Livinenko resulting in an untimely expiration due to the a-radiation effects of daughter isotope gigabecquerels. Screw all of that. I love Russians. In fact, Slavic moguls and ex-KGB types maintain a high standing with me. I think of them often as I glance warily from side-to-side while depositing baby Andropov's into my own opulent water-throne.)

Related Articles:
Alaska Cruise; Holland America Alaska Cruise; Alaska's Mighty Interior; The Aleutians; Denali National Park; Juneau; Sitka By The Sea; Skagway; Alaska Railway; Small Ship Cruise, Alaska


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"Namibia" Article

Jim,

I spent several school holidays in Windhoek with family friends. Much later I took each of my kids (U.S. born & raised) on separate trips to my native, Cape Town and "Overlanded" through Namibia into the Kaokoveld. I enjoyed your travelogue immensely. Please advise me if you ever publish a collection of your travel experiences. The apple strudel at Helmeringhausen somewhere after Ai Ais was the best ever. Graciously,

Merv Hayman, Sarasota, FL

Hi Merv, thanks for the correspondence, glad you enjoyed the article. It sounds like that country got into your blood, as it has in mine. I'm looking forward to getting back there someday and seeing much more of the place, Namibia has a peculiar allure. Thanks for the complements and I will certainly put you on the list for a travel stories compendium.

Cheers and happy travels!
Jim

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"Bullriding in Texas" Article

Hey Jim,

I love your website. It has shown me that all this time my boyfriend was lying to me about who he was. On his Facebook page he was using the picture of "Thomas Bosma"... Btw great story and pictures.

MaKayla, Rapid City

Hi MaKayla, glad we could be of assistance in busting your prevaricating suitor! Thanks for the complements as well.

All the best, Jim

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"Canadian Arctic " Article

Hey Jim,

Just wanted to say 'Hello'…love your intro/bio Mr. Boitano, fits the call of excitement/steelo of Mr. Friend. Hope to keep correspondence, and hope all your travels keep you busy but safe, Check my Friend...

Mico Gonz, Seattle, WA

Miiii-coooooooooooooooo!!!

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"Jalalabad, Afghanistan" Article

Hello Jim,

Very interesting, I find it very important for me because my BF is there. Hope he is fine...His name is Sgt.Jason Adams...Thank you and God bless...

Leonila, Guiguinto, Bulacan, Philippines

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Cpt. Disi was at Kutschbach with the guys of 2nd platoon. I was in 4th, we were right up the road at FOB Morales Frazier. I don't think I read anywhere about you being at KB but if you were up there in Kapisa province with us you would have loved it. It was 10x better than Jbad. The air there was so full of smog, and you couldn't really see that far out early in the morning when the sun was rising. But its nice to see someone like you who was out on patrols and documenting all the things we did. Great stories. Keep up the good work...

Kevin Myrick, Calhoun, GA

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Love your writing. Have you read Spike Walker's books by now?

Kerry, Wenatchee, WA

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Nice.

Christian Louboutin, New York City

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I do not believe I've seen this described in such an informative way before. You actually have clarified this for me. Thank you!

Janice Randall, Post Falls, ID

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I like the style you took with this topic. It isn't every day that you just discover a subject so to the point and enlightening.

Charles David, St. Anne, Manitoba

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Hey Jim! LT Singh just checking your site.. looks great… very slow internet here.. will be home in 2 weeks.

Alvin Singh , New York

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Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones. You have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up! And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :) .

Arthur Cox, Next to Paris

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Jim. Take it all in, smother your senses with the culture and people. Watch your top notch and have a once in a lifetime experience. Miss you.

Jeff and Andrea, Los Angeles, CA

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Fascinating photos Jim! Singly they are all fodder for short stories; together they really capture an out-of-body trip! Enjoyed mine, thank you! I'm curious what those compounds contain...mostly businesses? residences? Love that the T-Boy card is making it's way around the globe!

Wendy, Los Angeles, CA

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These are outstanding photos. You capture scenes that I've never seen in the "mainstream media." Haunting images that make me think that there is danger around every corner.

Al Burt, Friday Harbor, WA

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Enjoyed your article immensely! Your title is fun and so is learning about bin Laden skipping out without paying the rent - what a loser! It's great you could meet with Mr. Jouvenal, hear the stories and see the guns. Give our highest regards to T.G. Taylor and the other military personnel serving in Afghanistan. Courage to you all!

Steve, Renton, WA

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Jim, I enjoyed this fascinating article. It reminded me of how sublimely surreal life is. Also, I would like to thank you for your courage, and to express gratitude towards your bringing this piece of the world, with its foreign realities, to my doorstep. I look forward to reading more from you.

Sandra, Seattle, WA

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This is outstanding reporting, Jimmy F! Fascinating stuff. You've taken on a dangerous, important assignment in Afghanistan, and we readers appreciate your work with the military and your unique observations. I look forward to your next post. In fact, I'm going to go through the archives to see your entire body of work on TravelingBoy.

Terry, Los Angeles, CA

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I really enjoyed my entry into Kabul with you and the visit with Peter Jouvenal... look forward to more of that adventure.

Brenda, Richland, WA

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Great story, Jim, a story really "as current as yesterday's news." Now there's a real TravelingBoy!

Eric, San Diego, CA

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Jim you have probably revealed more about Bin Laden than anyone...his rage on the world has to be linked to his limp handshake. Be careful over there!

Janet, Caldwell, ID

Thanks Janet! I get the distinct impression that his handshake isn't the end story to all that's limp with bin Laden's physiology!

Jim

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What a fantastic piece. You're a modern-day Hemingway. Your writing is compelling and fascinating. I look forward to much more of this great adventure.

Roger, Puyallup, WA

Wow, Roger, what an awesome set of complements. Thanks a lot. My first journal entry of 2010 was: "The stories will tell themselves. I just need to show up." So far, so good! Thanks again!

Jim

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Jim, first time reading your stuff. Very cool. I hope to read about our units and life in eastern Afghanistan very soon since you will be coming to our area as an embed. BTW, I'm the PAO here in Jalalabad and will be coordinating your visit with CPT Disi.

T.G. Taylor, US Army, Jalalabad, Afghanistan

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Hello T.G.!

I saw your email address included on a couple of correspondences, and I cannot wait to spend some time with you, and even yet more of our honorable fighting forces over there in that bleak neck of the woods in Afghanistan in January, including CPT Disi. This is truly a trip of a lifetime for me, and I'm completely looking forward to absorbing the experiences there and recording the sufferings and sacrifices of so many of those of you who continue to strain and press to make Our Country Great, those of you who daily labor to assist those in other countries whose lives had once withered under the burden of tyrants, and whose hopes can now flicker again with the help of those like yourself. Thanks so much for putting it all out there for us every day. My fervent hope is to honorably document the expenditures of each of your individual lives in the midst of this conflict, those of you who "anonymously" struggle daily to make what We Hold As Good prevail in what, at times, is a dark and wicked world.

Thanks so much, man. Great to hear from you... See you soon!

Jim

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Sad to say, this is the first time I've read one of your articles Jim. What have I been missing!? Thanks for the funny, informative, and just plain awesome read! Take care and have a great Turkey day!

Jeff, Pasco, WA

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Jim, I just loving reading your blogs. As I've dreamt about going to Costa Rica for at least 20 years, this was a very insightful and fun read for me. You always make me laugh.

Deborah - Burbank, CA

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Wow, what a HILARIOUS guy!!!!! I really really enjoyed the article. The Village Artist is my 'uncle Boyd" as I call him. He is closing his shop next year. That made my day and thank you for letting me know of this on the world's BEST travel information source.

Sandy - Sitka, Alaska

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Hi Sandy!

Comments like those that you wrote make all the hassles and travails of writing resoundingly worthwhile, thank you! I am so sorry to hear that Boyd is closing his shop! The Alaskan State legislature should immediately intervene to make his shop an Alaskan cultural heritage site of some variety (not kidding). Meanwhile, from the sound of the conversation Boyd and I had, it's the federal government that's confused and harassed the poor guy with inconsistent and random applications of federal law to the point where it's probably not worth it anymore. I hope that's not the case, but I wouldn't be surprised. Whatever the reason, I am really sorry to hear that he's closing shop. I'm privileged to have seen it... once in a lifetime. Thanks again for reading and thanks a lot for your comments!

Jim

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Hi Jim,

Now I know what you were doing on the Alaska cruise when I wasn't around. Besides playing cribbage. I'm glad that you, a younger, more slender and fit person, also saw the value in cruising. I didn't come back with a tan, but I did lose 3 pounds while sleeping every night and eating every meal but one. Jade and I are looking forward to three weeks exploring Mediterranean ports in May. We put down our deposit for it on our last night on board and have starting our training. Sleeping in the same wonderful bed every night makes such a break-neck pace completely possible for a grandma like me. I'm looking forward to reading your Afghanistan piece WHEN you have returned.

Janice - Seattle

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Hi Janice!

Yes that was a blast! I would do all of that again any day of the week. Have fun on your Mediterranean cruise, that sounds like great fun!

Jim

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Love your expeditions. Keep writing.

Karen Cummings - Yakima, WA

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Jim can't tell you how much I am enjoying your writing. One other commenter mentioned you are living the life we all dream of, ain't that the truth. As far as looking for a place to live that will challenge you to be able to make a real living and supplying a steady flow of women looking for the bbd (bigger better deal) then you should try the Yakima Valley here in Washington State (inside joke). Look forward to reading more from you.

Huston Turcott (hooter) - Yakima, WA

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Awesome!!! I love Japan!

Maja - Chur, Switzerland

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Jimmy my love,

I totally thought you were kidding when you told me you went bullriding. OH MY GOSH you actually did it. (SIGH) Am I going to have to smack you around a bit?? heheheheee Seriously, come see us!

Leah, Richland, WA

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Jim,

Rock on Friend! Living it up... inspiring us all to do the same!

Celeste, Seattle


Jim,

Are you for real? You're living the life many people only dream about. You're obviously not yet married. What wife would allow her husband to do all the crazy things you do? This Virginia skydiving adventure is probably the scariest yet. Your writing style helps bring the exhilaration out. Great photos too. Loved the caption about you striking that "gangsta rap" pose. Come to think of it, why do we do that in front of the camera?

Thanks also for the tips. $250 for a few minutes with nothing between you and mother earth is a bit costly but I guess if you have a death wish, this is definitely the way to go.

You mentioned that 25 people a year lose their lives doing this. With my luck I will be among that number if and when I decide to do this.

Enjoyed it very much. Can't wait for your next adventure.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

Jeem!

Found ur Glacier trek (I will Destroy You Glacier Peak) to be serious kick ass. To be honest, I’m such a lightweight, I’ve never been more than a day tripper. When u really get out there on one of those long solo treks, and the water runs short … can u drink from local streams? I’ve heard that pollution is so bad that even places untouched by man are now off-limits.

VitoZee

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Howdy VitoZee,

Great to hear from you and thanks for the complement and question. That is a seriously cool name, by the way: VitoZee. Just from the phonetics of it, I get the impression that you might be a very friendly and mild-mannered hitman working out of North Jersey. Really cool.

As for your drinking water from streams question, there are a lot of answers for it. The simple answer is that, no, you can almost never implicitly trust stream water sources, unless they are flowing straight out of the ground (via an aquafer or spring) bubbling up right there in front of you. That's your best bet, but you rarely see that in the wild unless you're looking for it, and even so, I have actually gotten sick from drinking spring water straight from the source at Panther Springs on Mount Shasta. You never know what you're going to get drinking untreated water from the wilds.

Most of the time the pollution you'll be dealing with out in the wilderness is not man-made, it usually comes from bacteria and parasites that inhabit the bodies of wilderness animals. For example, on this Glacier Peak trip, I drank from a stream I was confident was trustworthy. In the immediate vicinity were living quite a few marmots. A number of days after I got home I fell ill, and had to wonder if I hadn't picked up something from the water I drank, as there was not much of any other explanation for my symptoms. I knew a trip to the doctor would probably result in them sending me back home with a plastic cup that was required to be filled with my own poo, which would need to be delivered back to the lab steaming hot so they could figure out exactly what kind of bacteria or parasite they were dealing with. (Not a joke, remember Panther Springs?) After this diagnosis, I would then have to go back to the doctor and get a prescription, but by then, my body would have probably fought off the tiny invaders completely on its own. Not worth the trouble, and all of this would certainly = Jim minus $280. So I suffered it out, and whatever happened to be bothering me left my system in about 7 days or so. Yuck. No fun.

Anyway, I don't recommend drinking straight from the streams of the wild, but in a pinch, I do it everytime, unless I see a bear or a moose straight upstream from me pooping in the river, which has only happened about ten times. (Or zero times.) Anyway, sometimes I get sick, sometimes I don't. If I'm exhausted and thirsty, to heck with it, I'm drinking it.

All this notwithstanding, or withstanding, or notwithoutstanding, whatever, they just recently invented the coolest thing in the world though, so you might want to check it out. Previously, for treating your water in the wild, you'd always have to put a pellet of iodine or a congregate of other evil ingredients into your jug of stream water and let it sit there for an hour before you drink it while the chemical cocktail thoroughly treats your water. That is ridonkulous because when you're hiking and thirsty, you aren't going to wait a full hour for that pill to dissolve and work properly, you are going to guzzle. Anyway, they just invented this magic wand of sorts that you can find at any decent backpacking or outdoors store. You turn it on and dip it in your stream filled water jug, and the ultraviolet light it produces irradiates everything to death on the spot, after about 30 seconds or so. Kind of like my pinky finger, which I keep forgetting to treat my stream water with, because I'm always so dang thirsty.

Jim

Keep it comin' Jim. Sounds awesome.

Matt Langley, Duvall, WA

Hey Jim,

Enjoyed your Victoria article. It was an intersting slant on a city that is generally just promoted as a destination for tea rooms, gardens and double-decker buses. Now let's get serious ... are the Canadian women there really that attractive, good-natured and open-minded? Maybe I won't get married either and just move up there. It sure sounds refreshing after having to deal with the smugness of all those LA starlets, trying to make it in Hollywood.

Gary, Santa Monica

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Gary,

Thanks so much for the communique. I can honestly tell you that there was little exagerration involved in my description of the girls there in Victoria. God, in his infinite wisdom, has thankfully granted American mankind a few other places than the great old U.S. of A. to relieve our hearts of the burden of the eternally-self-absorbed, career-tracked, Bill-Gates-as-a-husband seeking beastly variety of female. I know, after living here in the States forever (especially in Seattle), how it is. I was recently researching a trip to Columbia, and heard the same news implicitly spoken about the women there, they are apparently of the same caliber of those that live in British Columbia. I invite you, before relocating, to take a trip up to Victoria, to see for yourself. I'll never forget it.

And my brotha', if you think you have it bad in the Los Angeles area (I lived there for six years), try Seattle (where I have lived for the last laborious three). Seattle seems to be crammed with nothing other than Ice Princesses, who live their lives completely within the confines of darkened cerebral domains, mental attentions locked firmly onto the goal of marrying the next Bill Gates, hoping to live in one of those big houses smooshed up against Lake Washington, hearts available only to the ultimate goal, the dream of all dreams ... being on Oprah someday...absorbing the jealous attentions of the millions of suburbanite women watching, all hoping to sit right there across from Ms. Winfrey someday, too, while regaling her with the tales of the good life, closets full of the savvy and smarmy garb purloined at Nordstrom's, their husband a virtual "Prince Charming," their family-owned barnacle encrusted yacht anchored firmly in some northern fjord. Oprah smiles back approvingly amidst a cacophony of applause, screen fades to commercials, all conduits nourishing The Beast.

You're my kind of guy, Gary. Hang in there, amigo. I look forward to meeting your smokin' hot wife someday.

Jim

Stay tuned.


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