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Traveling Boy: Jim Friend: Holland America Alaska Cruise

The Haunting
In The Dark,
On Some Anonymous Mountain Pass….

Story by Jim Friend

painting of woman
Painting by Michael Ryan

k I finally have to break this out. I don't know why really, I'm just going to do it. This event in my life was so other-worldly and spooky and strange but yet at the same time so utterly redeeming, I completely avoid thinking about it. Just to think about it for as long as it took to write these few sentences makes me feel WEIRD. This is one of those campfire stories you'd sit around and tell on the right night out in the woods somewhere, but this particular episode in my life is so crazy, I would never even do that. It's just too weird.

Anyways, I don't even know why exactly I'm doing this now, but I'm going to sit through the gross feelings and just tell it.

I don't know if I should tell you this now or later (or at all), and I don't believe in superstitious business of this sort, but I'm just going to lay it out there and tell you all of the following happened on Friday the 13th , (April) 2007. I hesitate to say that, because you might think that I'm introducing that to put some sort of bug in your mind that this is just a weird joke, but it's not. And by the way, the reason I can remember this so clearly is because right after I got home, I wrote it all out in an email and sent it to a few friends, so here that email is staring back at me on my side-monitor computer screen next to my laptop. I saved it, of course… how could I not? Yuck, I feel gross, but here we go…

So one particular Friday almost three years ago now, I decided to take the day off of work. The work day was looking to be slow anyway, but the most of it was that I felt that God was leading me specifically to take the day off. If you've never had God "speak" to you before, all I can say is that when it's God, you can come to very little other conclusion that it's none other than Him, so you just do it, because why else would you not, you know? Anyway, I did the deed and called in and told them I wouldn't be coming into work the following day…..

At that time, my dad was really sick, so in my heart, I decided to head down to the Lower Valley to see him and install a weather station type thing that I'd seen advertised at Costco. My dad loved that sort of stuff, and the weather station he owned had long ago stopped working, so I thought I'd roll down there and try to make him happy in some way in the midst of his sickness. For some reason early on, even though it was a Friday and I had the whole weekend off, I found it desirable to the point of necessary to make it a one day trip. I would go to the Valley, install the weather station, and come right back home.

So when Friday showed up, for some reason, everything about my trip was totally delayed. It was to the point where I remarked to myself in my mind how slowly things were going, just for getting out of my apartment and getting on the road. When I finally left my place, traffic was worse than I thought it would be, to the point I even rebuked myself for not checking the Seattle traffic website on my way out to perhaps somehow have found out a better route. I stopped at the Costco in Issaquah and even that was a big hassle. I had to get gas and buy the weather station, and the whole ordeal was a big mess. On my way again, I stopped in Ellensburg, and the usually sedate Starbucks I love to frequent there had a line almost out the door. I again remarked to myself how unbelievably slow things were going.

Even in the Lower Valley, things took longer than expected. I had planned to be able to accomplish everything I wanted to do and leave by 6:00pm, but delays kept me from leaving until 8:15pm. On the driveway leaving my folk's house, I couldn't find my cell phone, thinking I had forgotten it, so I had to stop yet again, and was left digging around my Jeep for yet another several minutes until I finally found the thing. It was all just unbelievable.

So I'm finally on the road, heading back home, and was completely lost in thought, just like you do when you're driving alone for three hours, spacing out listening to music.
Between the Lower Valley and Seattle, there's a pass, called Snoqualmie Pass. I crested the summit, and was blasting blissfully along on the downslope. By the time I got to the bottom, I was doing 75 mph, which is about like normal for me, but notably on this occasion, there was a small truck in the far right hand lane, going about 55 mph or so. Trying to be "sneaky," in the strange dream world I apparently live in while I'm driving now that I think about it, and in an attempt to avoid being pulled over by the cops, I was also driving in the far right hand land. Be that as it may, this little truck was going slow even for being in the right hand lane, and slow especially for that stretch of the road, so that got the attention of The Silent But Always Auditing Part of the Mind, just to start with. As I slung-shot around that little truck, a few more little things got my subconscious attention in just the space of that few seconds. There was someone sitting in the back of the truck in the canopy, facing towards me, and it was a lady. Also, most curious of all, somehow there was a rope dragging out of the back of the pick-up.

Chillingly, and worst of all, this lady was making the sign of a phone with her hand (a fist with thumb and pinky extended), and was holding it to the side of her head. I jammed around that truck, feeling good about scoring points for the wickedly-paced pass I just pulled off. However, all of that math that I just saw didn't add up… my brain painted a very strange picture for just a moment.

In the space of a second I dismissed it all, stoked to be finally making great time on my way home. After I passed that truck though, the congruence of oddities multiplied as I realized the lady never took her eyes off of me, even as I passed. I had glanced over to get the full effect of this unusual situation as I went by, and realized as I thought about it that she was still attempting to make eye contact with me as I drove by, turning her head quickly as I passed. She couldn't have actually even seen my eyes with my glaring headlights in her face. There was a white male driving the truck. There was no one in the passenger seat.

So man, I am hauling keister, and was a good 1/2 mile ahead of that truck, but for some reason, I couldn't stop looking in my rearview mirror. Something about all of what I had just seen was bothering some part of my mind in some great way. I drove for about a mile and a half staring at that little truck in my rear view mirror, which was still loping along at about 55 mph, and in that space of time, I decided I could never forgive myself if something was amiss there. I made the decision to slow down so the truck would catch up to me, so I could have another look at what was going on, and pulled off and almost came to a complete stop on the shoulder of the freeway. As I did so, I noticed we were quickly approaching an exit. As this was happening, some part of my brain decided that if the truck took the exit, I would jam on the brakes and back up onto the ramp if I had to, and follow the truck until I could figure out what was going on…. that's how weird everything added up to, even that early in the ordeal.

Thankfully, the truck didn't take the exit, and as I slowed, the truck passed. As soon as it rushed by, the lady immediately attempted to regain eye contact with me and did the same cryptic hand signal, holding her hand in the shape of a phone to her head. After seeing that, there was little doubt I had to call 911, even if there was a bit of a risk involved. You don't normally drive down the road and see this sort of thing, so even when you do, you're a bit reluctant to make the call because it really could be anything… some crazy lady hitchhiker… or some guy's wife who's hallucinating on meth and was relegated to the pickup bed for the ride home…. your mind immediately assumes all kinds of possibilities, because it's just not normal to see a situation like the one you've heard me describe, and have it turn out to something as sinister as your imagination conjures that it possibly might be. You think, "Maybe this is some sort of weird college prank-type thing," too. Even with all of those thoughts in mind, the effect the whole situation had on me manifested to my heart as more of a dark, Ted Bundy sort of feeling.

Anyway, so now, despite and because of all these thoughts, I call 911. As I do this and return to the freeway, I notice that the guy has noticeably sped up, about 20mph faster than he was going before, and has gained about a half a mile on me. I contact 911 and I'm kind of apologetically explaining things to the operator, who is asking me for explicit details like license plate numbers and physical descriptions of the people, and I'm just feeling kind of dumb, but not really, because something was really just not right. Confusion.

The operator asks if I'm driving a semi, and I say no, I'm in a soft-top Jeep and that's why it's so loud, and I apologize that she was having difficulty hearing me. She tells me to read off the mile marker signs as I pass them so she can keep updated as to where I am. I told her I would follow this truck until there was resolution to the problem, for which she offers a sort of relieved reply. She also mentions that I should let her know if the truck takes an exit…. and as soon as she says this…. the guy exits the freeway, on what was the next off ramp.

I can see that the stoplight at the bottom of the ramp is red, and there are two mandatory left turn lanes… so now I know…. this is the time I am really going to find out if something's really, really wrong, as it so far appears, or if I've been having a very active imagination tonight. I tell the 911 lady that I'm going to put the phone down for a minute so the driver doesn't see me talking on the phone. Horribly she replies: "I think that's a good idea." The driver chooses the left hand turn lane, so I choose the right hand lane. I edge up to the back right-hand corner of his truck and stop, calculating the best angle to keep out of a clear line of sight of him shooting at me with a pistol.

Here's where I almost have a mini-meltdown in recounting the story, and my eyes well up with tears… The woman starts crawling toward the back of the truck on her hands and knees pleading loudly, I can hear her though my soft top…. "Please help me! Please help!" So now think about that visual for a minute…. All of what I saw earlier, in an instant had added up to this… the rope dangling out the back of the pickup, the eye contact, the hand signals, the lone male driver up front…. As she is calling out, and what seems to be an eternity later, she gets to the back of the truck bed and is attempting to crawl out the back of the truck through the canopy door… when instantly the light turns green and the man immediately quickly speeds off, with the lady still inside.

So imagine this for yourself, really… You have seen all of what I described to you, and you are now about to be chasing, and therefore challenging, one-on-one, the driver of a vehicle who has a woman trying to crawl out the back of it, imploring you for help, at the end of a dark empty freeway exit, turning to escape onto a dark mountain road. He knows you have seen him, and you are now about to chase him... It was all of a movie scene and much, much more, because it was 100% real.

I put the phone back up to my ear and the 911 lady immediately says, "Was that the lady I just heard pleading for help?" Almost relieved, knowing now she now truly understands the situation for what it is, I say, "Yes, you guys had better hurry up because she was begging for help." I don't remember at all what she said in response, in fact I don't think she said anything. As we take the left turn under the freeway, there is another light ahead of us that is red, underneath the freeway, controlling the opposing off ramp/onramp intersection. The driver slows considerably, but it's obvious by his speed that he intends to blow the light. Just as he is about to blow through, he inexplicably stomps on the brakes and stops just before the light. As he stops, the lady again starts her crawl back to exit the truck via the canopy. I'm just waiting for the guy to jam through the light and scream right up the long dark road that led into the mountains beyond, but he doesn't do it.

Just at that moment, I see why. Behind the berm from the eastbound freeway exit appeared two consecutive State Patrol cars. One was a suburban-type cop car, and the other, a regular squad type car. The first State Patrolman turns right and floors it up into onto the mountain road straight ahead of us, and the second State Patrolman turns left, and floors it! No. Waaaaaay. They are both going away from us, and fast. At this point, although not at all in the grip of fear for some reason, I am screaming gibberish into the phone to this 911 lady, "Oh, thank God. They're here!! No!! He turned right! Turn around!! No!! I'm right here!! I'm right here!! That's them!! That's them right there!! Left!! No!!!"

In the midst of all of this, and thank God, all of this commotion left just enough time for the lady to crawl to the back of the truck and make her way out of the back onto the road just in front of me. Just as soon as the State Patrolmen shoot past us and she gets out, the light turns green. The truck then pulls away, and the lady is walking down the road with her hands out, very similar to that woman in that scene in Blue Velvet, with a completely helpless look on her face and pleading inexplicably to me, much to my confusion: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

At this, the State Patrolman who had turned left and dashed off behind us must have seen the lady wander out in his rear view mirror, and flipped his lights on and turned around. The lady is crying and pleading with me, walking around toward my passenger door as if she wants to get into my car, and I quickly attempt to open the passenger door, just because that's what you do in that situation even if the cops are there, I guess. The trooper pulling up behind us apparently radios to his buddy, who is ahead of the guy speeding off in his pickup, and the other cop, by now far, far in front of us hits his lights and turns around, and then does another u-turn and lights up the guy in the pickup.

Two state patrolmen come out of the car behind me. One is a man and the other a woman. I close my phone, not even thinking about saying goodbye or thanks to the 911 lady, I'm totally on autopilot of some previously unknown variety. The female cop engages the lady and the guy cop comes over to me. He immediately says, "Good job," or something similar to that, and then immediately starts asking me information questions like my name and phone number, and if it's all right to call me if he has more questions about what happened. After this very brief exchange, he turns his attention to the lady, who is sobbing. She loudly says to the patrolwoman, "I don't have anything, it's all up at Cabin Creek, I don't have anything! I don't know why I went back to him, I have like this 100 year restraining order on him." Then she totally broke down: "I was so sure he was going to take me 100 yards off the road and kill me! I was so sure he was going to kill me!"

So the freeway underpass has exploded with red and blue lights and this sobbing, apparently near-murder victim and State Patrolmen, and more State Patrol cars screaming in from all directions with their lights blazing, and the guy cop says to me, "You can go if you want, thanks." Just like that. No further ado. You can go home now. Whooooooooa….

I couldn't help it, and it was sort of awkward given the exchange going on between her and the officers, but I said to the lady, "I have to give you a hug, can I give you a hug?" She said "yes." I went over to her and we hugged, and she wouldn't let go for a long time, and I was telling her, "I am so sorry, I am so sorry. Hang in there, hang in there, I am so sorry, take care of yourself," etc. She was weeping, saying, "I was serious. I was serious." (I didn't understand this until later, but she was referring to her interaction with me on the freeway.) After that, she offered her hand so we shook hands and she said her name was Mary and I told her my name was Jim. The patrolmen called her to their car right afterward, and we said our goodbyes and I took off.

On my way away, I went through the light and drove up to the pickup before I turned around to get back on the freeway. The man was in handcuffs and the patrolman was questioning him.

I got back on the freeway and drove home, saying out loud on the way like a mantra, "I can't believe that just happened to me. I can't believe that just happened to me."

When I got back home, I stopped at my friend/neighbor's place on the way into my apartment to decompress the whole event before I went back inside.

Postscript:

That should be the end right there, but let me go just a little bit farther…

As you'll recall, I was delayed all of that day, in so many different ways, even right up to the little bit of losing my cell phone, leaving the driveway of my parent's house. Just a few minutes longer delayed… after all of the other previous postponements.

There's a verse in the Bible that says, "All things work together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose."

Had I not been delayed, in the midst of seemingly innumerable insignificant circumstances, over and over again, I would never have seen this lady in the back of that truck when I did. The stretch between Cabin Creek exit and the exit he took was only about ten miles, everything had to add up perfectly for me to be right there at that exact time.

What do you even say about that? Where do you go from there? I have to say that years later, I'm certain I still haven't learned the lesson that I was supposed to learn that day, if that was even the point, and I can't even tell you that I even know exactly what the lesson/point is supposed to be. That's all meaningless in the realm of the thought that I was able to help that lady that way. But that happened…

What now? What do I do with that? The resolution is unclear to me right now, but someday, by the Grace of God, it will somehow all make sense…

What do you say to that? What do you do?...

It still haunts me….

"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

* * *

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


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