Traveler and author Mark Twain filled 50 journals before he died. He wrote sketches for stories and characters, schemes for inventions, observations, drawings and dirty jokes in his little notebooks. He always had one on him to remember the little oddities of the world that he thought worth noting—because if you don’t write such reflections down they are often forgotten, and the moment and its significance disappear with them.
Twain’s first pocket notebooks were purchased in 1857 at the age of 21 during his training to become the “cub” pilot of a steamboat on the Mississippi River. He felt confident that the job would be fairly easy to learn but found he could not remember the instructions his teacher, Horace Bixby, imparted to him. Bixby advised Clemens, “My boy, you must get a little memorandum-book, and every time I tell you a thing, put it down right away. There’s only one way to be a pilot, and that is to get this entire river by heart. You have to know it just like A B C.” Clemens accepted Bixby’s advice and thus began a lifelong relationship with the pocket notebook. –The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men, The Art of Manliness
The best notebook is always the one in your pocket when the extraordinary plays out. Great writers usually keep one at hand, and many travelers do as well. Below are a few of the finest journals still in production...
A view you might catch this summer (Courtesy of Josef Janning)
Watch your rearviews this summer, from July 28 to August 26th, in hopes that you might spy a group of Europeans pedaling their velomobiles from Portland, Oregon to Washington D.C.. According to their Web site, rolloveramerica.eu, we are told this is the first time such a crossing in the U.S. has taken place.
Such a bold claim may lead to the question, what is a velomobile? It's the fastest road bike for everyday use, according to the pod-encased pack that touts its speed. The eco-gang of Germans and Danes hope that by riding their contraptions across the country they will inspire Americans to buy a pod and start commuting.
English poet and artist, Edward Lear, was traveling in Greece in 1848 when a cholera outbreak forced him to follow the overland route home. His subsequent travels through Albania and Macedonia ended up being the highlight of his trip. The author of “The Owl and the Pussycat” wrote about and illustrated the Albanian landscape in his book, Journal of a Landscape Painter in Greece and Albania—one of the greatest travel narratives ever published. Lear doesn’t miss a detail in the tome, right down to his packing list:
“A light mattress, some sheets and blankets, and a good supply of capotes and plaids should not be neglected; two or three books; some rice, curry powder and cayenne; a world of drawing materials—if you be a hard sketcher; as little dress as possible, though you must have two sets of outer clothing—one for visiting consuls, pashas and dignitaries, the other for rough, everyday work; some quinine made into pills (rather leave all behind than this); a Boyourdi, or general order of introduction to governors or pashas; and your Teskere, or provincial passport for yourself and guide.”
In the 19th century, Lear was traveling light. Today, you can travel a hell of a lot lighter. There are some essentials you need: food, water, money, passport, shelter. Everything else is a luxury. That’s not to say you can’t live well. Just that you can live well with only a carry-on.
Airfares aren’t falling. They’re not going up either. They’re jumping around more erratically than ever. George Hobica, founder of Airfarwatchdog.com puts the trend this way in a recent interview with Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site:
“If I knew [that ticket prices were going up] I wouldn’t be sitting here answering these questions. Seriously, no one can predict because there are so many variables: oil prices, further industry consolidation, geopolitical events, natural and manmade disasters, and so on. Over the long term, yes fares will creep upwards, if only due to inflation. But consumers have a breaking point and they are only willing to pay so much to sit in a tin can on a thinly padded seat, get pawed by TSA, breathe stale air, and deal with cranky babies and passengers of size spilling over into their space. So fares will only go up so much; they’re inelastic.”
There are a few tricks that can help you find a good deal—one in particular. I flew from New York City to Marrakesh last winter. Round trip airfare never dropped below $1,200 during the two months I looked for a ticket. Then a friend told me that Ryanair flew from Europe to Marrakesh, so I checked their rates. $75 each way from Paris. After a half hour I found a $365 round trip flight to Paris, matched it with a Ryanair flight and booked my trip for a grand total of $565, including fees.
In the thick of review season, when we're testing lots of bikes extensively (think 60 bikes with 20-some testers and dozens of rides per bike), it can feel like speed dating, with not enough time to really get to know a bike. So I've hung onto a handful of compelling products for ongoing appraisal, including the Cielo Sportif road bike from Chris King, which we reviewed earlier in the year. But now I've had the pleasure of beating around on it for over six months.
Photos courtesy of Cielo Cycles.
First, a little history. Though Chris King started out as a frame builder back in the late '70s, he is probably most renowned these days for his bombproof headsets, which are arguably the finest on the market. A couple of years ago, with his business chugging along healthily (he also produces high quality bottom brackets, hubs, and other polished small bits), King decided to return to his first love of making bikes. The line of bikes has filled out since then, but the company's first salvo, the Sportif, still remains as the benchmark.