Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Sunday, October 22, 2017

How to Choose a Biking/Hiking/Walking Tour

Who wants an unexpected and unpleasant surprise on a biking, hiking or walking tour? I’ve signed up on numerous active adventures, some solo, others with a friend, and sometimes with a group and a guide. But, on any of these, untoward things can occur, including finding out that the roads are in poor conditions, the bikes don’t have low enough gears, the terrain is more mountainous than you imagined, wildlife roams free on the roads, the list can go on. A romantic hiking tour in Italy may leave little time for stress-free romps through wildflower-laden meadows or espresso breaks with the locals because of the hair-raising and heart-pounding treks up precipitous paths in the Dolomite Mountains. How do you assure that the tour you signed up with is what suits your needs and interests? Check out this article I wrote for Berkeley Wellness so that you’re not unpleasantly surprised on your next adventure.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Gear Review: Yeti Rambler Mug

Whether you're going car camping, headed to the beach, or an outdoor event, this mug -- the Yeti Rambler -- can keep cocoa and coffee hot or water cold for some four to five hours or so. A lot of people may already be familiar with the ever popular Yeti coolers that are over-engineered in a good way. (No wonder they're so pricey.) The mug runs around $24 and it weighs some 14 ounces, not light. But any mug that performs so well -- and looks good -- may be worth it. It's comfortable in your hands, has a wide mouth so it's perfect for soups, stews or chili, is durable and can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher. It's made from heavy gauge steel and has a double-wall vacuum insulation.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reykjanes, Iceland in Pictures

Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula is a magical place that few visitors ever really see because, after arriving at Keflavik Airport and maybe stopping at the Blue Lagoon, they zoom into downtown Reykjavik. Too bad, because they're missing dramatic scenes. Reykjanes is rife with plumes of steam and bubbling mud pools, from geothermal activity, as well as otherworldly craters, fissures and stacks of lava. Even a sandy beach! And a "ghost" ship that had long washed ashore after the violent surf hit the rocky coastline. This YouTube video slideshow provides a window into this under-appreciated landscape that's worth many days of exploration.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Packing Light for Winter Travels

Visiting Greenland in the fall with only a carry-on weekender tote bag for five days of travel seems impossible. But not for someone like me who never checks luggage. I simply wore  my heaviest clothing -- including boots -- on the plane. (I removed these as soon as I was seated; rolling them into an ultra-light tote bag that I then used as a pillow. Below are some of the heaviest items, including a wool hoodie, two jackets -- one fleece and one insulated -- and the snow boots that have cleats. I also wore black leggings, a Merino wool sleeveless dress and a Merino wool long-sleeved shirt. In my bag I packed one pair of winter pants, two tee shirts, a rain jacket, several pair of wool socks, two pair of Ex-Officio underwear, three wool skirts, and two Merino wool long-sleeved shirts. Aside from the clothing, I packed my first-aid kit, a zip-lock with liquids (shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, deodorant). My small personal bag -- a tiny backpack -- contained my iPad, camera, notebook, and all of the personal in-flight items I recently blogged about here. When my flight landed, I was the only passenger who didn't have to wait at the carousel for my luggage.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Greenland In Pictures

This is the Greenland beyond the iconic sights that visitors associate with this grand country, beyond the sled dogs, fishing trips, polar ice cap, and treks to glaciers and fjords. This is the colorful Greenland that's rich in contemporary art and design, and dramatic beauty - all in the capital city of Nuuk.
This YouTube video slideshow presents a window into my recent trip to charming Nuuk.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Personal In-Flight Items - What to Pack

Whenever I fly, I'm observing the behavior of the passengers around me. It's often surprising to see how many get up -- often when the seatbelt sign is on because of turbulence -- to open the overhead bin and rifle around in their large bags for some item they need. Many times, because of their disorganized packing, the item is no where to be found. Opening the overhead bins during turbulence puts them and the people around them at risk for injury, should something fall out. I keep everything I need for the flight in a small backpack under my seat. These items can deal with most anything that will occur on the flight, whether it's the noisy passengers or stomach upset, chapped lips or motion sickness. Here are the essential in-flight items I pack:

  • Ricola natural herb lozenges for a dry or sore throat
  • Tummydrops  for motion sickness
  • Bonine also for motion sickness
  • chewable Rolaids or Tums
  • Aleve for a headache
  • EarPeace earplugs
  • Bucky eye mask
  • dental supplies: floss, foldable toothbrush, Stim-U-Dents (a special toothpick that softens in your mouth so it won't injure gums), mini toothpaste tube
  • Charmin wet wipes
  • Purell hand wipes
  • dark chocolate
  • lip balm
  • Altoids mints

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Kids First-Aid Kit Organizer - Only 2 Left

A well-stocked first-aid kit is often an afterthought when packing for travels, whether it's a short road trip or a journey to far-flung lands. But, if you're traveling with children, it's especially important to pack items that can tackle anything from a simple skin rash to an insect bite. A well-stocked first-aid kit certainly doesn't preclude visiting a pediatrician should your child develop a fever or have an allergy reaction. But it can take away the worry for minor cuts, bruises or ills.

My Kids Doc-in-a-Bag is not stocked with first-aid supplies. Rather, this is a zippered vinyl sac that comes with a comprehensive laminated list of what you need to include in your kids first-aid kit. On the list are things such as child-safe sunscreen and insect repellent, topical cortisone for rashes or insect bites, as well as kids Benadryl (antihistamine) for mild allergic reactions.

There are only two Kids Doc-in-a-Bag left in stock.
I'm including samples of Tummy Drops, a natural product containing ginger created by a gastroenterologist. (Perfect for motion sickness, whether on the plane, in a car, or on a ferry.)

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Safe Street Crossing Tips

As a New York City resident, I know firsthand that Manhattan is experiencing a street and sidewalk congestion that we've never seen before. And, here as well as across the nation, both motorists and pedestrians are seriously distracted -- whether it's from staring at their cell phones or plugged into their headphones. Numerous agencies and reports -- here and here -- document that distraction is a major cause of pedestrian accidents and, more importantly, fatalities.

I'm not one of those distracted pedestrians. Whenever I am in a crosswalk, my head is rotating left and right the entire time I'm crossing, making sure someone, whether a motorist or cyclist, isn't about to cut me off, despite the fact that I have the right of way. But, I've found that despite my contentiousness, whenever I'm in the crosswalk, drivers and cyclists making a left or right turn appear to not see me or perhaps choose not to. Recently, I was walking across the street with two out-of-town friends who just assumed if the light was green, they could barrel ahead. A truck turning left almost struck both of them, if it wasn't for me pulling them both back.  So what's the solution?

Over the past two years, I've been using a tactic based on what traffic control officers have long used: I hold a brightly-colored object in my hand and, using my outstretched arm that's facing any potential oncoming traffic, and I wave the object. It might be an umbrella, book, scarf, shopping bag, newspaper still wrapped in plastic, and so forth. You get the idea. I use this method each and every time I cross the street and I can't tell you the number of times this colorful arm/hand motion has piqued the driver's attention.  And, if those off times when I don't have an object to hold, I extend my arm with my hand flexed, palm out and fingers outstretched in the well-known "stop" signal as seen below.

At first my friends and colleagues thought these gestures looked fairly odd. and too embarrassing to mimic. But they saw the results as they crossed busy Manhattan streets with me. Cars stopped when they saw me waving a purple umbrella or a bright green scarf or using the "stop" hand signal. Of course, none of these gestures obviates me from still looking right, left and all about as I cross, just in case the driver still missed me.

This is hardly a controlled study. But it's worth a try. I've used these strategies when I'm traveling all over the world. After all, NYC doesn't have a monopoly on out-of-control drivers.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: New York's Hudson Valley

If I were forced to pick one area in New York that I would have to visit again and again, it definitely would be the Hudson Valley. Stretching 150 miles from the northern reaches of New York City to Albany, this area is dotted with numerous quaint villages that ooze history and are peppered with contemporary art galleries, and placid green spaces that are perfect for walking, hiking or cycling. I've written several blog posts about the Hudson Valley, here, here and here. 
Now I received a beautiful, and enticing coffee table book focusing in on this region: Hudson Valley Reflections by Michael Adamovic. It's divided by seasons of the year and is replete with close-up images of the flora and fauna as well as historic features, and panoramas of the bucolic landscape anyone who has visited the Hudson Valley may be familiar with but will still delight in seeing these again. And, anyone who has never visited or not heard of the Hudson Valley, this will tempt you to get on Metro North, one of the ways of conveniently visiting many of the villages, and stop in Beacon, Cold Spring -- two of my favorites -- and others. Though the cover of the book refers to it as an "Illustrated Travel and Field Guide," I would've loved to have seen more information that was travel focused. Though the very back of the book includes 44 spots with natural, historical and architectural features as well as other venues that you should put on your "list" as well as an accompanying map indicating their location.

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