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Preview: Rambling Jack's Laboratory

Rambling Jack's Laboratory

A McKinleyville-based repository for ruminations and assorted rubbish.

Updated: 2017-12-15T10:32:28.541-08:00


Southwest Adventure 2012


width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Here is a little video about our Southwest Adventure, which we enjoyed in October. Good fun. If I have time, I'll post some photos on this poor, neglected blog. – Jack

Exploring Humboldt Bay with Kayaks



On Dec. 24 we explored Humboldt Bay in our kayaks. The weather was perfect. The bay was as smooth as glass.


We paddled up the slough near Murray Field.






There are all sorts of interesting remnants from railroads and piers from years gone by.

We saw this fellow hovering above. Then it swooped down and snatched a little duck out of the water, returned to shore and devoured it. Yikes!


It seemed pissed that I was taking its photo.




I'm seeing a lot of "Old Crow" graffiti. Is that a local gang? Maybe I'll start my own gang called Bombay Sapphire.


Another beautiful day with The Goddess.

Exploring the Southern Oregon Coast


For Thanksgiving, The Goddess and I decided to pack up our little trailer and explore the Southern Oregon Coast. The weather forecast was bleak, but that's why we have a little trailer – a 15-foot-long 1965 Aladdin.There's a little table up front where you can play cards.This unfolds into a double bed, so even if the weather outside is frightful, inside it's delightful.We left Tuesday and slowly made our way up the coast. Our first stop was Gold Beach. It was raining buckets. Later that evening the wind picked up. There were reports of gusts up to 97 mph on the Oregon coast. I don't know what the measurements were at Gold Beach, but the trailer was a rockin'.The next day we meandered up U.S. Highway 101 to Coos Bay, then drove about 10 miles west to Sunset Bay State Park. This is a really beautiful place. It was raining hard, so most of my photos (like this one) were taken using my iPhone in a waterproof case.We ventured out into the rain, then retreated to the comfort of our trailer. Later we went into Coos Bay and went treasure hunting.On Thanksgiving the weather improved slightly. We explored the park.This is were Malcolm Forbes started his transcontinental hot air balloon journey.One of our favorite spots is the overlook for the Simpson Reef. This is a couple miles from the campground.Here's the Simpson Reef.There are a gazillion seals and sea lions here. You can hear them barking day and night from the campground.We saw a Bald Eagle!Please excuse the blurriness. I have a 20X zoom on my camera. That's not enough to get this close, so this is a combination of digital zooming and cropping. (200X?) Suddenly the eagle flew out over the water and caught a fish.It returned to the rock and ate the fish.What an awesome sight!We saw a rainbow over the Cape Arago Lighthouse.About a mile from the campground is Shore Acres, which includes a botanical garden once owned by timber baron Louis Simpson. During the holidays it's decorated with thousands of lights. It was an impressive display.On Friday we enjoyed a raging fire.Hula kept one ear up and watched for intruders.We took a photo Saturday morning before we left for the trip home.One the way home we came across dinosaurs.We ate turkey sandwiches near the Rogue River.Rogue River at Gold Beach.We stopped for a final photo at the Ship Ashore. Then we hurried home. Good times.[...]

Political Button Collection


I always enjoyed show-and-tell day in elementary school. Once a week you’d bring in a neat rock, paperweight or maybe a shell casing from an artillery round and show it to your classmates. One of the favorite items I brought in was a photo of my cousin Tim shaking hands with President Gerald Ford. This was probably in the second grade. Tim’s dad was a Secret Service agent for Nixon and Ford, so Tim was able to get his photo taken at the White House. I didn’t know much about politics at that age, but I knew who the president was. I thought it was really cool that my cousin got to shake his hand, and Tim had a photo to prove it. I recall that there was little reaction to the photo from my classmates. Maybe they didn’t know anything about the president. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Readers of this blog may feel the same way about this posting, which isn’t much different than show-and-tell day. It’s about my political button collection. Early last year I didn’t have a collection, just two buttons tucked away in a box somewhere. They’re remnants from my childhood. I think my brother Pat was cleaning out his stuff and gave me a McGovern button from 1972. In 1981 there was an incident with Libya, and my brother Matt gave me a button about it. I tucked these away in a box and, for some reason, kept them. Early last I was at a rummage sale and came across a couple buttons, probably a Nixon, maybe a Goldwater. There are interesting historical artifacts and only cost a couple bucks, so I bought them. When I got home it occurred to me that I should put all of my buttons together – all four of them. A collection was born. But can you call four pathetic buttons a collection>? Not really. I needed to fill in a few gaps. So I found a couple more buttons at a different sale. Then, at an event at Redwood Acres, I hit the Mother Lode. There was a bucket with at least half a dozen old buttons, along with a Nixon bracelet. I paid $2 for each button, $5 for the bracelet. Now I had a real collection. But there were so many gaps, and the collection was dominated by Republicans. I needed more Democrats. So the search continued. Later, after learning about my collection, family and friends started giving me buttons. It kept growing and growing, and continues to grow today. Why collect buttons? My wife and I enjoy hunting for treasures. We go to garage sales, rummage sales and antique stores. We look for interesting kick knacks and household items. Lately, we’ve become “rummage snobs” and often come home empty handed. Unless, of course, I find some buttons. Each political button has a story to tell – politics, history and a personal story. As a bonus, buttons are inexpensive to collect and they don’t take up too much space.Value? How much is my collection worth? Answer: Very little. There are serious collectors out there who pay top dollar for rare political memorabilia, none of which I own. The buttons in my collection cost 50 cents, $1, or maybe $2. Sometimes I pay a little more than they’re actually worth. If I want a button that’s worth 25 cents, but an antique store has it priced at $1.50, I’ll pay for it. After all, the store owner has to pay rent and utilities. But would I pay more than $3? Probably not.Note that this particular collection is limited to national candidates, with a few exceptions. Scattered about my office and elsewhere I also have buttons from local candidates, but that’s a different collection for a different time.Here’s the collection:1924, Coolidge and DawesI'm not clear on the age of this button. Some internet sources claim it's from the race of 1932.1936, Landon and Knox1940, Roosevelt and Wallace. Also shown is an anti-Roosevelt button, year unknown.1944, Dewey and Bricker1948, Dewey and Warren1940, Willkie and McNary1952 and/or 1956? Eisenhower, and Eisenhower and NixonHere is some Ike jewelry.1958-62? Pat Brown1966-70? Ronald ReaganThese are among the exceptions to my "national" button rule[...]

iPhone photography


My iPhone 3G has a little point-and-shoot camera. It's not the greatest camera, but it has a few things going for it:1. Unlike my big camera, I almost always have my iPhone on me. It's super compact. 2. There are all sorts of interesting iPhone apps that allow you to manipulate the images and add special effects.3. You can share your photos on Facebook while out and about.Here are a few recent shots.This is Humboldt Bay as seen during a recent bike ride. I forgot what this filter is called.Here's the Carson Mansion in Eureka. I'm going through a totally obnoxious over-saturated/over-the-top filter phase.Here's the pumpkin patch in our backyard. Last weekend we took our trailer down Highway 1 to Mendocino County. In this shot, I used a filter called "1974." It makes the photos look like old Kodak snapshots from the early 1970s.I wish I had brought my regular camera (Canon Powershot SX20). There were osprey flying right by us and diving into the ocean for fish. The iPhone sucks when it comes to zooming in. I don't know why, but I like this "1974" filter.Our 1965 Aladdin Travel Trailer.Our happy home.Humboldt Bay yesterday morning as the fog began burning off.Camel Rock yesterday afternoon. Over saturated, as usual.Trinidad Head. (This filter makes your photos look like Polaroids.)So my regular camera is much nicer, but it's also bulkier, which means I don't want to carry it around all the time. So I'll continue using the iPhone, despite its drawbacks.[...]

Planting our garden


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On Saturday we planted our garden. Here's the exclusive video.

4 Wheelin'


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This is down the street from where I live. For some reason, I never thought of going off road there. Then Steve paid a visit.

Dog enjoying peanut butter


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This is my latest cutting edge, avant garde movie.

Experimental movie


There's a neat little iPhone app that allows one to make stop motion movies. So this is my little experimental movie. It's a simple love story – not exactly on par with "Out of Africa." Yeah, yeah, there are all sorts of lighting problems. And, yes, maybe it's cheesy that the characters visited Aphrodite's temple before finding each other. This is just an experiment. The next one will be a masterpiece.

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National Bring Your 1960 Ranchero To Work Day


My poor, rusty, neglected 1960 Ford Ranchero had a rough winter as it sat soaking up the rain and salty air. So today I fired it up and took it to work. It just needed to get on the road. (Video shot and mostly processed on iPhone 3G.)

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Camping video


Oh, poor blog. I've neglected you for the past year, despite having lots photos of fun and adventure. There have been camping trips, a visit to Hollywood, Gold Country and even New Orleans. There have been bicycle rides, and hikes and all sorts of bloggable events.

Maybe I'll catch up and resurrect this blog.

Meanwhile, here's a little video of our weekend camping trip:

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Into the Fog. 9.29.10



Yesterday's Bike Ride


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Introducing the Bianchi Eros


A couple months ago my friend Irv gave me his Bianchi Eros. It's hands down the fanciest bike I've ever owned.I put it on my bicycle repair stand, cleaned it up, made some minor modifications and adjustments.I installed these old school toe clips, which I like.Being that I'm married to an Italian, it makes sense to finally own an Italian bicycle. Eros, by the way, is the Greek god of sexual love and beauty. Right on!Lots of Campy parts!I've ridden the bike a lot, mostly up and down the Samoa Peninsula and in the Arcata Bottom.This shot was taken during yesterday's ride. As you can see, the terrain is nice and flat.Here's the bike next to a new Duane Flatmo mural underway in Arcata.Lots of egrets were out and about.A view of the dunes.Today I went to the Mad River. Here's the Hammond Bridge.The Mad River.A beautiful ride home. Thanks Irv! I'm putting this bike to good use.Now that I have a high performance Eros, I'm planning on installing handlebars like these on my Navarro Randonee.[...]

Some scenes from summer camping


In May we traveled to Sonora for the funeral of my grandmother, Doris McCormick. While there was obviously sadness, it was also a celebration of her life. I got to see lots of family members who I hadn't seen in a long time, and I got to show off my wife!On our way to Sonora, we camped at Lake Mendocino. Here's our 1965 Alladin at the campsite.Here's Hula, contemplating the trailer's tongue weight, the vehicle's horsepower and gearing ratios.Kim and I both love reading maps and looking at places that we can explore. My brother Matt grabbed my camera and took this shot at my grandmother's grave. This was my grandmother's house in Sonora. It's where my mother grew up. I have my great-grandfather's tool chest, which probably played a part in the construction of this house.Here's the house in Jamestown where my father grew up. We spent many weekends and summers here when I was a kid.Right next to the house is a building that once housed Durham's Quality Beverages, which was my grandfather's business. They bottled Acme beer and soda pop.Jamestown has lots of neat antique stores.Nearby there's a train museum.Remember the trains in High Noon? Part of the movie was shot here. The rest was shot in nearby Columbia.You may not remember this, but you've seen it on TV.I'd like to go back in time and work here. Here's a miner's cabin in Columbia, where they blasted the soil away in search of gold.Here's a photo of our kitty Rocket. It's completely out of context for this blog post, other than the fact that he's been part of our summer fun.On a different trip we stayed at Ruth Lake.I spent a considerable amount of time in my camping chair reading.There are logical and scientific reasons for chemtrails, but those are no fun. I prefer the theory that they're part of a vast government conspiracy to control us and the weather.On the Fourth of July weekend we camped near the Eel River in Southern Humboldt. Here's our cozy canned ham at night. We usually camp without any hookups, but not this time.Hula loves his rocks.A couple weeks ago we camped on the East Fork of Willow Creek. Here's the creek, which is a few yards from the campsite.It's beautiful.Here's a different creek up the road.More camping adventures to come. Stay tuned...[...]

Italy – Transportation


During last year's Italy trip, I made it a point to take photos of various bicycles, cars and other forms of transportation. Besides walking, scooters are probably one of the most popular forms of transportation. They're everywhere. You can hear them zipping around, night and day.They line the streets.This is one of my favorite photos, which was taken by Kim. It goes to show that people can adapt to their mode of transportation.This scooter had a giant box on the back. There's lots of room in there for groceries, wine, etc.Check out this oddball scooter thingamabob, which we spotted in Florence.Almost all of the cars you see in Italy are tiny. There are lots of Smart Cars and little Fiats. Large cars and SUVs are rare. When you're in the city, this makes sense. The roads are narrow and there's little parking.I took this photo in Amalfi because it demonstrates why it makes sense to have small cars. If the car was any bigger, it wouldn't fit in the limited parking space.I love these little Fiat 100s. They look like clown cars.Here's another one.This is a Smart Car. It's some sort of sports car version.Neat car.In Palermo, we rented this Fiat Panda and drove it across the middle of Sicily. We were going to rent a Smart Car, but we didn't think our luggage would fit inside.Even the garbage trucks are small.There are lots of Piaggio Apes. While I saw lots of Piaggios, I only saw one Pope Mobile.This is an extremely rare photo for several reasons. First, during a period of three weeks in Italy, I only saw about three cyclists who could be easily identified as sport cyclists. Second, people in Italy don't wear helmets.This pretty much sums up the bicycle scene in Italy. The bikes are sturdy and practical. Here's a typical bike.Look out for the old lady!Americans and Italians have something in common – they don't know how to properly adjust their seat height.This beauty was on display at a train station.Check out the leather bags. Even the bicycle lock chain has a leather sleeve.At the Ferrari store in Rome, you can buy a Ferrari bike.Here's a Ferrari mountain bike. People in red Ferrari outfits are there to assist you, and help empty your bank account.Here's a pretty bike in Florence. This guy looks like a famous artist. A folding bike is a good idea.There's some sort of Bike Share program going on here.This auto dealership stocks a selection of electric bicycles.A pretty street scene in Ostia Antica, the ancient Roman port.[...]

Camping Season Begins!



Introducing the 1965 Aladdin canned ham


It's 15 feet long.It's 45 years old.It has a little ice box, a sink with a hand pump, and a couch that folds down into a comfy bed. Here's the kitchen.There's a three-burner stove with the world's smallest oven, suitable for cooking Cornish game hens, assuming you don't stuff them too much.The Goddess stitches pillows to match the curtains.There's an old "clock" on the wall.And this came with it.Why is this photo here? So you can get a better feel for the trailer. Have a look around. Make yourself at home.Here's the other side. Now we can go camping all year long.[...]

Re-Introducing the Mighty Panasonic


In 1990 or 1991, I picked up a Panasonic 15-speed touring bike at a garage sale in Arcata for $15. Manufactured in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the bike had a flat tire and the paint was scratched up, which is probably why it was so inexpensive. I brought it to my parents' house in San Mateo and my dad fixed it up. Years later, it was sitting in my garage gathering dust. I had almost forgotten about it. One day in 2006 I pulled it out of the garage, pumped up the tires and starting riding.I was out of shape. I pedaled to the edge of town and back, then came home and fell over. It seemed so far. Then I pedaled to Moonstone Beach and back. That felt like a marathon. Then I made it to Trinidad and back. By December 2006, I made a New Year's resolution that I would complete the 100-mile Tour of the Unknown Coast.In preparation, I pedaled the Panasonic all over Humboldt County in all sorts of weather. Above is a photo of a chilly winter ride I took to the top of Berry Summit. I was so pleased with the bike's performance that I started calling it the Mighty Panasonic.After completing the Tour of the Unknown Coast after 11 hours in May 2007, I decided to upgrade. A got this Cannondale frame free off of craigslist and the Mighty Panasonic was stripped for parts to create a new bike. Eventually, the naked frame was stored in the sand under our house in Manila.I became interested in riding fixed gear bicycles, and bought this conversion last year. It was fun to ride, but it had a heavy Schwinn frame and sometimes it felt, well, kind of weird. It's hard to explain, but sometimes I felt like the frame was flexing in strange ways. Or maybe the front chain ring and the rear cog weren't properly aligned. Earlier this year I decided to put these wheels on the old Mighty Panasonic. Last week, Kim said that for my birthday she would buy whatever parts I needed to complete the conversion – some bolts for the chain ring, a new bottom bracket, a chain, toeclip straps and some handlebar tape.By Wednesday evening, the project was done. Still in my work clothes, I jumped on the bike and tested it on our gravel/sand driveway while Kim took photos.I hit some deep sand and went down! The toe clips did a nice job keeping me from saving myself as I went sideways. After that, I was done for the day.This morning, I toured the Arcata Bottom on the Mighty Panasonic. It's a beautiful bike. I think the frame is a work of art.What we have here is a vintage bicycle frame with a vintage crank. I purchased the classic Jim Blackburn bottle cage in 1983, which is perfect for this bike. The plastic toeclips were also purchased in the mid-1980s.Check out the leather handlebar bag! Kim gave it to me for Christmas. Sweet.The key to converting a bike to a fixed gear is making sure that the rear cog and the front chain ring are perfectly aligned.On flat ground, this bike is a rocket.Welcome back, Mighty Panasonic![...]

Honeymoon XII – Final Day with the Pope


We paid a little extra and took the fast train from Florence to Rome, getting there in about 90 minutes. When we reached this building, we knew it was time to turn right and head to our perfect little hotel.We decided to spend the day walking around Rome. We wanted to see the river and, if we were lucky, perhaps we'd even see the Pope at the Spanish Steps, which he visits every year on Dec. 8 for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.This is part of the "face to face" series that Kim photographed.The Tiber River had a swift current. We crossed this bridge to an island, which houses a hospital, and then crossed another bridge to the other side.Looks like someone bought himself a fancy backpack in Florence. A pretty bridge.Check out the angels.There was lot of graffiti. I almost forgot about our invasion and occupation of Babylon.There was lot of graffiti like this. Who are they?What about Johnny Rotten? Doesn't anybody care about him?We came across an ice rink near the river. I imagined Steve Dozen working as a DJ here, closing each night with "Hotel Calfornia."We climbed some hills and enjoyed the view.Further up we went. Kim took this one of our approach to a monument.Here's a monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi, who at one point fought against the pope.Check out Romulus and Remus suckling on the she-wolf. I bought one of those cheesy plastic statues depicting those two fellows. It's proudly displayed in our living room.Another one.Garibaldi's slogan was Rome or Die. After the battle, he went to Venice.Our next mission was to walk to this statue near the Spanish Steps. Since 1854, the pope has visited this spot every Dec. 8 for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.The crowds were lining up. The Spanish Steps were covered with people, so we could see much.This guy in a sash walked through the gauntlet and shook people's hands. Some people seemed delighted to see him. Who was it? The mayor?This lady stepped out a doorway and everyone started looking at her and taking her photo. Was she a celebrity? Just in case, I took this shot.Here comes the Pope in his Pope Mobile! Yee-haw!Meet Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joseph Alois RatzingerHello! He got out a short distance away and started talking. I recognized his voice. A couple minutes later, we left.It was a beautiful evening.We rounded this corner and found a restaurant.I ordered a martini, which was made perfectly. Kim got a white Russian. We enjoyed a wonderful meal, returned to our hotel and flew out the next morning.It was a perfect honeymoon. It was romantic, adventurous and we had a blast. Thank you to everyone who helped us out and made this trip of a lifetime possible. We love you.[...]

Honeymoon XI – Florence


The next day we took a train to Florence.Check out this guy and his mustache. The folding bike is a good idea. Eventually I'll have to add one of those to my collection.We didn't know that there were slow trains and fast trains. So a trip that we thought would take an hour and a half took four hours. Live and learn.We were told that due to a holiday, it might be hard to find a room. So when I guy approached us at the train station and told us he would take us to his B&B, we jumped on it. When we needed to use the bathroom, we tip-toed past the family watching soccer in the living room. We could have stayed here. As the song says, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.We walked around Florence at night.The next morning they served us breakfast in our room. For the first time since we left home, we got eggs for breakfast. We were happy campers.We were now on a mission to see David. We wandered the streets and found an unassuming building. There was no line. We paid for our tickets and entered. David was massive and surrounded by photos by American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The photos of naked humans actually complimented David. We weren't allowed to snap any photos inside the museum so I don't have any pictures of David to show you.However, I did find this commentary inside a bathroom stall. We then continued to wander the streets. Check out this church.Nearby was the St. Giovanni Baptistery. Here's the ceiling.A demon enjoys a tasty snack.We wandered some more as I got colder and colder. Winter had arrived, and I was in need for a wool sweater.Here's a one-man band.My beautiful wife. Lovely, lovely, lovely, and darn good navigator. The Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno River.LoversShop, shop, shop.Got that?This was one of the best restaurants we went to. It was pricey, but delicious.The next morning we visited a giant indoor market with all sorts of interesting vendors.Here's another photo by Kim.And another one.How about some rabbit?Check out the buckets of olives.We then got on a train and headed back to Rome. There was only one full day left before we had to fly home.[...]

Honeymoon X – Ostia Antica


You may recall that after we first left Rome, we wanted to visit the ancient Roman port of Ostia Antica. Through a series of errors, we ended up in strange coastal town before abandoning our plans and heading for Naples.This time, back in Rome we found an actual bar where we gathered intelligence which allowed us to make the trip to Ostia Antica. Keep in mind that such bars are rare in Italy. Unlike Americans, Germans, Irish and the English, Italians aren't known for what a guide book called "dedicated drinking." They don't pony up to a bar and get drunk.They have coffee shops with pastries and ice cream and perhaps a bottle of Jack Daniel's on the shelf. You can order a drink, and you could get drunk if you wanted to. But it would be like getting tipsy at the local Denny's or Starbucks. It's more likely that you'll have your cocktail, eat something and leave relatively intact.The exception was the Druid bar, above, near our B&B. It was a real bar, with barstools and a wall of liquor (a rarity in Italy.) It was inhabited by drunken English & Irish lads, and a few drunken sailors from some northern European countries. We enjoyed some Guiness.We also found a charming Welshman who worked as a tour guide. As he sucked down a jug of white wine and smoked endless cigarrettes, he told us how how to get to Ostia Antica and highly recommended a place that Kim was already determined to see.We took the subway, transferred to another train and exited near this castle right outside the ruins.The castle was closed, dammit. But we still enjoyed looking at it and exploring the adjacent village.The buildings were pretty.A nice place for a kitty, don't ya think?We then entered Ostia Antica. This time I skipped petting the dog, who looked like he was ready for a good fight.Here's one of many, many incredible mosaics. Ostia Antica isn't mentioned much in the guide books, but I'll tell you this – if you go to Italy and don't have a lot of time, forget Pompei and Herculea. Ostia is just as good, and it's a day trip from Rome! It will more than satisfy you if you want to explore an ancient Roman village.Some of the buildings are two stories in height.Here's the theater.Here's a theater face. By the way, the temperature is beginning to plummet at this point and I'm freezing my balls off. That's why you're now seeing me in that wool hat. It's neat to explore the second floors in an ancient Roman village. I wonder who climbed these same steps 2,000 years ago?WTF? Where are we?Oh, here we are at a bar. A 2,000-year-old bar! Here's the original menu. What would you like?Here's a temple.After Ostia, we returned to the subway. Turns out that there was a strike of all transit workers, which meant we had to sit and enjoy cocktails and snacks at a local joint. Then, several hours later, we got on the subway along with half the country all headed to Rome. It seemed as if we were within moments of a riot. Good fun! Later I may post my video.[...]

Honeymoon IX – Vatican


We got into Rome later that day, tired but happy to be on familiar streets. The next day I woke up and nearly slipped into my short-sleeve pink jumpsuit. At the last minute, I changed my mind and wore something else.Boy, am I glad I did. As you can see, they're not allowed at the Vatican. I got lucky.These guys would have never let me enter dressed like that, or would they?Here's one of the first things you see when you enter St. Peter's Basilica. Believe it or not, I actually dipped my hand in the holy water and crossed myself. As they say, when in Rome...Here's Michelangelo's Pieta, which means "pity." Carved in 1499, it depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of Mary after he was crucified. It's behind glass now after some lunatic attacked it.St. Peter's is amazing in its size and opulence. Here's a view from the base of the rotunda.Here's a work by Bernini. Yowza! Since we were already this far up the rotunda, we decided to go all the way to the top. Along the way, we learned that the journey wasn't meant for those who are prone to claustrophobia.The staircase goes round and round and round and round and round and round, getting narrower all the time. It's dark, stuffy and there are narrow slits for windows. Kim stopped in a tiny alcove with space for one. There were people behind me, so I had to keep going. That's when we got separated.I kept climbing. I waited for her at a several locations, but eventually figured she had turned around. I'd meet her at the bottom.This is one of the larger spiral staircases. A smaller one had a rope in the middle.The climb was worth it. Here's St. Peter's Square.You could see mountains in the distance.You could see parts of the Vatican that are off limits. This is where the Pope goes skinny dipping at night, although I haven't confirmed that.After a dizzying descent, I waited for Kim smack dab in the middle of a nearly empty St. Peter's Square, while she waited for me inside near the elevator where I should have exited. Eventually, she walked outside and I spotted her in my binoculars at the same time she spotted me. After that, we decided to have a plan in the event we got separated. Good idea!Next, we visited the Vatican Museum. It's one of the best museums I've ever visited.If you want to see small penises and severed heads, this is the place to be!Here's another head.Here's some hard-core Catholic porn.This place is amazing. There's loot everywhere.There are rooms and hallways dedicated to every single art form. This is in the Vatican map room. I imagine that hundreds of years ago Popes wandered into this room, pointed at the maps and discussed what was going down.Don't tell Kim, but I'm going to get a second mortgage on the house and purchase this piece for her birthday.We made our way to the Sistine Chapel, where I took this photo until I was informed by a security guard that no photos are allowed. Apparently, everyone in the chapel knew about that rule except for me. I was blown away by the Sistine Chapel and liked The Last Judgement on the wall even more than the ceiling, which was also great. This spiral staircase took us down to the exit.We got on the subway and headed back to the center of Rome. Kim took this photo at the restaurant we ate at.I can't even begin to describe how good the food was almost every night in Italy. Kim's photo of eggplant parmesan tells the story. Then again, my wife can whip up some great Italian dishes herself, which is good because we can't afford to go to I[...]

Honeymoon Part VIII – Selinunte and Trapani


From Agrigento we drove west to see more ruins in Selinunte.We passed lots of interesting coastal towns, like this one. We entered the ancient Greek archaeological site of Selinunte, and once again found that we practically had the entire park to ourselves.Here's Kim walking up the steps of the Temple of Hera. Friggin' amazing!Goosebumps? Damn right I got them.The sky grew darker. Thunder roared. It started to hail. We retreated to the Fiat Panda.About 20 minutes later, the hail stopped and our explorations continued, this time with the help of this soggy fellow who seemed to live there. I fed him some left over arancini di riso (deep-fried rice balls.) He kept up with us for miles, but was distracted at the very end when he found a delicious half-decomposed rat.We took a different trail past the temple and headed for the coast.Way cool!Neat columns.Here's an old farmhouse.Then we drove onward through the rain to the city of Trapani and got a room. We went window shopping. If you want to adopt the most popular Italian style, here it is – black and purple. That's what everyone is wearing. I think this trend has already penetrated America and will soon dominate the fashion landscape.We went by a bridal store and my wife almost melted seeing the lovely dresses.Good luck finding a good place to eat between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., when most restaurants are closed for their version of a siesta. Fortunately, we stumbled across this great little deli, which served all sorts of goodies. We ate standing up, but it was a fantastic meal.The next morning we woke up early and looked out our hotel window. Here's what we saw. On the road back to Palermo we passed these marble quarries. We dropped off our car, got to the Palermo airport and flew back to Rome, which almost felt like home being that we had become somewhat familiar with it and knew where to stay.[...]

Honeymoon VII – The Valley of Temples


In Palermo we rented a Fiat Panda, drove east and then headed south straight across the middle of Sicily. Aggressive driving in strange place with near anarchy came natural to Kim, so I let her do all the driving.The countryside reminded me of Central California, like the hillsides south of Salinas. The difference is that you come across sights like this one, which aren't even listed on tourist maps.I've always heard Sicily described as a poor area, but that wasn't apparent from its highway infrastructure. Rather than just carve the highway through the countryside like we do, much of it was elevated like in the photo above. It's mind boggling to think about how much this would cost. Two small bridges over the Mad River run at least $40 million, so how much did this cost?Kim got to visit the towns where her ancestors came from – San Cataldo and Serra Di Falco, located more or less in the middle of Sicily.Here's San Cataldo.We visited a cemetery and came across a Giambra crypt. We don't know if they're related, but they might be. After exploring the two towns, we made our way to the southern coast and visited the Valley of Temples.This is the Temple of Juno, built in the 450 BC by the Greeks.Here's The Goddess in front of the Temple of Concordia.And that's me.This is the Temple of Hercales, one of the oldest at the site. As you can see, we practically had the park to ourselves.Although this looks like the Michelin Man, it's Zeuss.Nearby we found evidence of human sacrifice.In the distance, we saw mysterious structures.If they'd let me, I'd grab a shovel and dig for artifacts near these old city walls.Here are some catacombs!Amazing.It was beautiful as the sun went down and the temples glowed in the orange light.We drove down to the sea and got a room at an empty hotel. He had our own patio.Here's the view from our room. The sky was dramatic. That night, we had one of the best meals ever.The next morning we walked on the beach, then drove west along the coast.[...]