Here, for your reading pleasure, are our favorite posts from our earlier trip around the world. They’re also in chronological order going from west to east. Click around. Laugh. Enjoy.
To read the full version of any story, just click on the blue headline.
San Luis Obispo: The case of the missing passports. I was standing in line at the downtown post office yesterday — our last day in San Luis Obispo — when I received a frantic phone call from Jamie. She was hyperventilating, gasping for air so rapidly that I couldn’t understand what she was saying. She was finally able to blurt out that she had lost our passports.
Stockholm to Helsinki: International incident narrowly avoided. We made new friends on the cruise between Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. And almost lost them.
Moscow, Russia: The three amigos and the Crimean cognac. We boarded the speed train from St Petersburg to Moscow at 1:30 pm and quickly found our seats near the back of the first class car. Seated directly across the aisle from us were two burly Russian men about my age. Like many of the other Russians aboard, they had numerous alcoholic beverages arrayed across their dining trays.
Moscow, Russia: The strangest (and maybe best) day of our trip so far. We got aboard only to find a singer and a guitar player in the front of the bus. The passengers all began waving little flags, the guitar player began playing, the singer began singing, and the bus began rolling down Moscow’s Golden Circle drive. They handed us flags to wave, and we started singing along to a Russian song we’d never heard before. A man wearing a sash got up and made a speech that made everyone cheer. A woman came down the aisle and handed everyone — us included — caviar in little pastry cups.
Somewhere in Siberia: Our alternate dining experience. She was making absolutely no progress in her conversation with the shop owner because she was speaking English exclusively and he was speaking Russian exclusively. Jamie seems to believe that if she repeats something often enough in English the language will miraculously become intelligible to people who have never before comprehended it.
On the Chinese border: What Russian border agents think isn’t always what they say. First a tough-looking hombre with a drug-sniffing dog came through the train. While the uniformed agent stood outside our door, his dog ran into our car, sniffed around quickly, found nothing and automatically ran to the next compartment to repeat the process. The agent said not a word, but gave us a look that said, This is a great job. The dog does all the work and I get to stand here scaring the hell out of weak kneed Americanski tourists. How the hell did these clowns win the Cold War?
Xi’ An, China: Jamie and the Buddhist monks. When we finally moseyed out to our gate there were two open seats next to the the monks. I said, “Let’s go sit next to them, Jamie. This should be interesting.” She, of course, thought I was insane. Especially when I insisted that she take the seat next to them.
Chengdu, China: A study in black and white. As far as Jamie’s concerned our ’round the world trip is now a success and it’s all down hill from here. Screw the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Terra Cotta Soldiers, Beijing and Shanghai. Screw ’em all. If we had to come home tomorrow, she’d be ok with it.
Chengdu, China: Jim tries his hand at diplomacy. Do you know anyone who’s studying Chinese? We don’t. But everyone here in China is learning English. I mean everyone. As we were walking through the Panda park this morning we passed this group of kids and their teachers. The little boys all shouted, “Hello!”
Chengdu, China: Dinner with the girls. Hot pots are a very popular dish in China, but especially here in Chengdu. Jamie had no idea what a hot pot was, but decided that we should try one for dinner. She found a restaurant that specializes in hot pots just around the corner from our hotel. We went in and sat down, but realized pretty quickly that we were in trouble. The menu was entirely in Chinese with no English translations and none of the waitresses spoke a word of English.
Shanghai, China: Jamie announces that she’s leaving me. Despite the fact that this is the 19th anniversary of our first date, Jamie walked out of the bathroom this morning and announced that she’s leaving me. I know this comes as a huge shock to our friends and loved ones and I’d like to give you more details, but I’m unable to do that until I tell you this story.
Exmouth, Western Australia: Frolicking on the Ningaloo Reef. Everyone’s heard of the Great Barrier Reef, which sits off Australia’s east coast, but almost no one’s heard of the west coast’s nearly-as-impressive Ningaloo Reef. And even fewer people have visited it. Here’s one major difference between the two reefs: It takes an hour long boat trip to reach the Great Barrier Reef, but the Ningaloo Reef is so close to shore that you’ll only be about waist deep in water by the time you reach it.
Broome, Western Australia: There’s a frog in our toilet. There’s a frog in our toilet in Broome, Western Australia. I’ve tried to get him out, but he’s a clever little bugger and always manages to climb into an inaccessible little crevice where I can’t reach him.
Broome, Western Australia: Like Maui 30 years ago. Maybe even better. I used to love Maui so much that I thought I’d retire there but that dream ended when the island began turning into a smaller version of Waikiki. Too much traffic, too many tourists, too many condos, and the last straw for me, a Costco. I missed the small town Maui that I loved so much on my first visit. That explains why we love Broome.
Broome, Western Australia: One hump or two? On one of our earlier trips down under we were driving across the Nullarbor Plains from Adelaide to Perth. It’s a long, boring three-day drive and Jamie had just tilted her seat back to take a little nap when I slammed on the brakes and screamed, “Camel!”
Tennant Creek, Northern Territory: Did we do something horrible in a prior life to deserve this? In my defense our hotel got the top score among Tennant Creek hotels on TripAdvisor. But that’s kind of like saying your sister was the best-looking contestant in an ugly woman pageant.
Angaston, South Australia: Jaimie’s hooked on an Aussie soap opera. Please take my advice: Do not attempt to speak to her while “Home and Away” is airing. At best she will shush you and demand that you speak to the hand. At worst she will bite your head off.
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia: Jesus Jimmy and the Langer Sisters. Sometimes life takes interesting, unexpected twists. And that’s why we ended up having dinner with people I never expected to see again in a town we never expected to visit again.
Honolulu, Hawaii: Just as I was about to say it’s been a perfect six months… This was going to be a story about how unexpectedly well, how remarkably well, in fact, that this trip has gone. How we never missed a flight nor a train. How every piece of luggage arrived where it was supposed to be when it was supposed to be there. How we never had a bad hotel except in the outback where our expectations were reasonably low. How we never had a really bad meal. How we never lost anything. How incredibly healthy we’ve been. How warmly we’ve been greeted and treated everywhere we’ve gone. But then we got to the last 24 hours of the trip.