INCIDENTS OF My TRAVELS to
NEVER SEEKING ADVENTURE YET ADVENTURE FINDS ME
Kingdom of Bahrain, Arab Spring 2011
“You…You…” The man searched for the word from Arabic to English in his head, “…America”. The word more of an accusation than a question from suspicious eyes. I was startled in place. Why the question?
The encounter surreal. as I was rushing out of my suite from a Bahrain resort located near the fringes of the island, an area still under construction so any interaction is seldom and brief. I was in a hurry to beat the traffic to Manama City for the night’s dinner, some cocktails, maybe a bout of Cricket on the telly at an undisclosed restaurant sports bar. The discovery of which only comes from exploration of the area. The only reason I was even here was to wash the weathered sweat and salt from a long day’s work in the hull of a ship. The 100-degrees of the day augmented by the sun beaten ship’s hull and its confined quarters. Refreshed and change of clothes, I rush out to the man’s path.
The Arab was unkempt, the sight pitiful. Tousled hair caked with clumps of dandruff and with straggly beard festooned with foodstuff trapped in their curls and dried spit. A stained t-shirt and acrid body odor betrays any consideration of hygiene long abandoned. And though with an armful of bottled water, his dried and cracked lips evince dehydration, his queries looked painful. He blocks the stairs I intended to use. His shock clearly displayed that he did not expect this encounter either.
I notice the opened door beside us to the his suite around the corner from mine. Shadows mill around in the dark. I see their silhouettes against a cooking fire in the middle of the great room the only source of light for the drapes are drawn in the darkened apartment. As the questioning is repeated louder, ambulation stops and figures approach the portal. Curious.
Their presence here incongruous. Obviously longer than mine. The reason I was isolated here, instead of a city hotel by our client, is to prevent such interactions. With tensions between east and west it seemed a good plan. Apparently they had the same idea. A month here and a few more days to go before leaving attests the futility of the plan.
Before this trip, I have been warned. Attempts to deter this field job decision came from my immediate manager. “You can always back out, no reflection on you or your work.” Clandestine calls received by government representatives, all advising to reconsider the trip. However, the boss and owner of the company, Bill, was adamant on his intent and I agreed to accompany him. He now was gone a few weeks and I was alone now realizing the cause for the concern.
My mind races in that moment, have I discovered a zealous and xenophobic cell in hiding? Worse, they discovered me.
I have seen the movies, in the book “Den of Lions” correspondent Terry Anderson’s unfortunate encounter in the 1980s lasted in sequestration for seven years. Others not as fortunate as videos appear of their demise at the hacks of dull machetes. We were assured safety at the beginning of this venture of course. A security detail at the ready to extract us to the safety of Dubai at the moment’s press of a pager phone. A phone I have now kept in my suite for lack of imminent danger these past four weeks here already.
Frozen in place on this terrace alone, with all of these thoughts racing through my head…my fate depends on my response to probing questions.
An answer is expected...
Black Mountain where Continental Lake and Baltazar Hot Springs on Nevada Route 140
Spring 2021, in an effort to reclaim an almost lost vacation time I decide on a 5300 mile road trip in one week. With mostly back roads of travel I find some interesting destinations.
"Traveling makes one modest-you can see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."
Gustav Flaubert 'Flaubert in Egypt'
I was deviated from the main highway hours ago, and since then a hundred miles of back roads have passed. Surprised, because the highway was heading in my general direction but the wise GPS says, "No, this way is quicker." I heed to the suggestion without question. Since then, there has been nothing but fenced off grazing lands to my left and right, with even less grazers in vies and I wonder if those barb's intentions is to keep us out than the livestock in. Snowy-capped mountain ranges surround me at every turn that I never quite cross. Only an undulation of a straight road that runs unperturbed toward the hazed horizon where mountains meet the gold-green-tan sage patchwork of earth that is my world.
My Mini Cooper is low on fuel. With only 350ish-mile capacity in its sparse 10-gallon tank, I found a while ago that my little car is better suited for urban travel, not for the expanse of western deserts where gas stations are sporadic and hundreds of miles in between. I am getting within a hundred miles of capacity now. I kowtow at Google Maps for wisdom, careful not to blank the map in my search for nearby gas stations, I find that Denio Junction, a brief 60 miles away, has the only gas station anywhere near me and , coincidentally, the point where I am to turn westward on route 140 toward the Oregon State line.
I continue on, rolling road undulating as it has now been for forgotten hours. Hypnotic and accompanied by the soft roar of rubber on asphalt. This is my world now, all else forgotten. I lose myself in the tedium of it. My blank glaze only interrupted with the occasional glances to my dashboard, hoping my fuel depletion is not as accurate as my gauges indicate.
Gauley River September 2020
"I will have no man in my boat," said [chief mate of the Pequod] Starbuck, "who is not afraid of a whale."
__the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from fair estimation of an encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is far more dangerous comrade than a coward.__
The Ship, Moby Dick
It is always prudent to remember that, whatever your station, a cautious approach to the unknown with skepticism and fear is necessary. These rapids (of any class), are as unpredictable as Starbuck's whale.
Gauley Expedition Sept 2020 Journal Entry
Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean August 2012
Years after the installation of new diesel propulsion controls on a couple of transports the maintenance fell on us. The intent was for these ship crews to maintain their hardware but all engineering mates were mechanical. None was adept in the computer programming required to run the engines. Therefore, with my familiarity, I was constantly called out to maintain the systems. Not that there was a need, of all the thousand components that makes these ships move, the computers were low maintenance.
Rio Dulce Guatemala 2014
I am often asked, as is the case of at least once every hiking trail I have traveled lately, “What is that on your back?”
They are referring to a girth of a branch that hangs over my shoulder, secured in place by the straps of my backpack. “This is my hiking stick.” I would reply. The look on their faces tells me I need to explain further.
I proceed with the story of my finding it some years back in the Guatemalan jungle. Or, as I more aptly believe, it found me.
Kodiak Island November 1988
About the Author
I have always ended up in unexpected places. So I present a collection of my tales told over the years. Places that due to circumstances I might never go on my own accord.