Sunday, June 29, 2008

An Adventure Long-Awaited


Yesterday, I put my 9'6" Hobie surfboard (made in 1964, and ridden a few times by the guy I bought it from in a garage sale) into my new Toureg SUV (it fit inside), and drove out to North Salmon Creek Beach on the Sonoma Coast. My mission was to: 1) scout out the surfers to see what wetsuits they were wearing, so I could go to the local surf shop and buy one; and 2) don the wetsuit, wax up the board, and begin again to enjoy the surfing life I spent most of my childhood loving.

Watching from the beach as surfers entered and exited the waves, I noticed they all had full wetsuits with hoods and booties. Wetsuits were never worn where I grew up (La Jolla), and looking like a scuba diver is a new experience. I spoke to one guy my age, and asked him about his. Wearing a familiar brand, he advocated the complete kit, including the 8mm thickness of the material. "I can paddle out and surf for an hour before I really get any water in it", he said. He clued me into the local surf shop scenes, advocating for one of the two locals. "It's the distributor of this brand, and they give great service."

Arriving at the shop, I looked around for a few minutes before approaching the kid behind the counter. On the walls were memorabilia of an era of surfing I knew well. Classic surf photos seemed familiar, and there was a surfboard high up near the ceiling which was younger than the one I had in the car outside. It, too, was a Hobie, but it had a decal made long after I had stopped surfing. "How old is that?", I asked. The kid climbed up on a ladder, and told me he thought it was the 1970's. I was out of college by then, and lived in Northern California.

Retrieving two wetsuits from the upper level rack, he described the differences. The one with thicker material was less flexible. The thin one was a bit harder to put on, due to its design. After 30 minutes in the dressing room, which included putting one of them on backwards, I chose the one with thicker material. The water out there was cold, and I would sacrifice flexibility. For a while, I expected to be fighting off the thirty pounds of fat I've accumulated. Wrestling against the wetsuit itself, I thought I'd rather be a little warmer and stiffer than colder and more flexible.

I drove back to the beach, found a parking place near the stairs, and began a ritual I knew would become second nature. I was glad the SUV trunk opens to a broad, flat bumper to sit on while putting the suit on. I was also glad to see a guy my age coming back to his car with his board about the time I needed help with the last zipper and velcro on the back of my neck.

Soon, there was nothing but stairs and sand between me and my dream. Waxing the board at the water's edge, I asked a couple near the tide line to watch over the extra wax. Next time bring less wax. This new stuff adhers well to the board.

I have a hard time calling what I did next surfing. Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun. And it will lead to plenty of surfing for the rest of my life. For a while, I'm going to be spending lots of time in what we used to call the soup (whitewater after the wave breaks) getting this 60-year-old body to be strong enough to paddle well, lift itself from prone to knees, and knees to feet. It's a good thing I've matured into a confident adult. That 16-year-old who used to tear up the waves all over Southern California would never be seen with they kook he has become. Patience, and a pure and deep love of the waves, will bring me back to the adventure. I'm really glad that it's begun.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Another Family Adventure - to meet my Norwegian Cousins in the U.S.


This August, Pat and I will drive our Airstream north, and then East, to visit my cousins on my father's mother's side of the family. They are the great, grand-children of Norwegians who emmigrated in the 1840-1870s to the upper Mississippi and Missouri River valleys.

In order to maximize the chances of seeing them, I thought that I would use the travel blog to describe the journey, and who I have found so far to visit. That might help improve my chances of seeing them. It might also help me make better arrangements to visit them, and share the research of last Fall's visit to Norway. They know best where everyone is, and who might be willing in the late summer to chat with a new relative.

Starting with my father (who lives in the high California Sierras), I'll then head north to Pendleton, Oregon. My great-uncle Homer and Rosanna's family lives in Pendleton, Oregon and in the areas around Puyallup, Salem, and Auburn, Washington. His father, Julius Mikkelson Leen, died there in 1954, and is buried in the Auburn Cemetery. We'll try to visit with the Leen, Finney, Elton, and Pepper families living there.

While there's really no one living between there and North Dakota, we'll take a few days to enjoy the ride up through Glacier National Park to Ray, North Dakota. Equality Township (now Ray) was the home of many a cousin, and my grandfather was the Police Chief in the 1920's. We'll visit the Soine families living there, and travel to Williston, Bismark, Rugby, Fargo, Bagley, and Minot to visit the Holland, Pepper, Kirby, Soine, Skogman, Finney, Johnson, and other families.

Minnesota is where most of my cousins have lived for the past 150 years. Moorhead, Renville, Benson, Wilmar, Burnsville, Warsaw, Rice Lake, Prior Lake, Waverly, Eden Prairie, Coon Rapids, Maynard, Menomonee Falls, and Hennepin. There are at least 40 cousins in the Soine, Skare, Wasson, Glessner, Peterson, Larson, Sanders, Paulson, Miller, Elton, and Blomer famiies, and lots of places of interest, in Minnesota.

One person I would like to visit with is Shirley Manning in Moorhead, Minnesota. Without her, the information in my family tree would heve been very confusing. Terri Soine was extra helpful. As one familiar with both the Washington and Minnesota sides of the family, I'm hoping to connect with her to make this adventure even more successful.

I'd like to visit the cemeteries in the towns where most of our family lived in the late 1800's. Their names are familiar to me, now that I've been to Norway and seen the farms they came from. I'd like to see where they spent their lives, and meet those still celebrating them. I'd especially like to visit the grave of my grandfather in Waverly, Minnesota.

The families of my great Aunt Eloise are also special to me. She wrote me many times in the late 1990's, and her notes always revealed new insights into the family details. I believe they are living in Benson and Burnsville.

We may get to Wisconsin, depending on the pace of travel, but will probably then turn south and west to head back. We've always loved the stretch of country through New Mexico and Arizona, and want to spend some time there. We'd also like to visit Traci Crowell in Tucson. We'll enter California east of Los Angeles, and head up the central valley before we head out to the San Francisco Bay area and home.

When will we be traveling? That really depends on the arrangements we can make to meet people. I'll be sending emails to those I can find, and snailmail to others, to get their reactions. August is not the best month to be traveling, but it's probably a good guess for when it will happen. Assuming that we leave about August 10th, we should reach Washington by the 16th, North Dakota by the 20th, and Minesota by August 24th.

I'm sure that I have left out many cousins who might help our family visit to the Mid-West be successful. If you'd like to help, and especially if you might be interested in our stopping by for a chat, please let us know. the email is:

Thanks much, and here's hoping we see you.

Gregory Fearon
Pat Kuta

More Turkey Travel Photos


Brian Whitney, a traveling friend if ever there was one, has posted his photos from his recent travels with our Grand Turkey Tour group. Brian appears in many of my photos, as he always seemed to be positioned in the perfect place while he sought to take his photos. Climbing to the very top of Mount Nemrud, the image of him will stay in my memory forever. For those of you looking through my shots, he's the guy skipping stones near the Ataturk Dam, standing at the top of the Amphitheater at Perge, or knealing at the cemetery at Anzac Beach.

To see the photos we was taking, visit his website at: Brian's Photos

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Turkish Gullet Travels


One of our boatmates, Anka Ritter, sent us some photos she took on our cruise. They wonderfully show the beauty of the sea and the coastline, even capturing a wild goat being fed by our captain. The ruins are at Olympos. She promises more, and I'm hoping that our other boatmates will forward some of their photos.

Redwood Surgery


I know this doesn't qualify as travel, but I thought I'd share an adventure which happened just over our backyard fence. A towering redwood, which defines the back left corner of our yard, was ailing with a cancre that had claimed the top 25 feet of its 200+ foot height. Thought to have been brought by a bird while we were traveling, we noticed it on our return. Our neighbor was responsive, and yesterday several arborists surrounded the tree.

This is the video of what occurred.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Turkey, Tuesday, June 3


Today's blog will try to bring you up-to-date in a coupleof ways. First, some thoughts on Antalya and touring, and then a capsule from Pat and I on the Gullet experience. Finally, some photos on today (Tuesday's) adventures in our final day in Istanbul.

Long ago, vacationers in need of sun and warm, clean waters to swim – headed for the Mediterranean coast of France, or Italy, or Spain. But those places got crowded, and expensive. Lately, there’s a newer, cheaper alternative. It has more hotel rooms, a longer summer, and plenty of charter boats to host your day or week on the coast. It’s Antalya.

Transformed with billions in foreign investment in the last ten years, the area’s hotel and housing stock has grown to support a summer peak population of over a million. Sporting one of the busiest airports in Turkey, Antalya brings them in, and brings them back again and again.

Three features we saw appealed to us: the Marina, the old town, and the coastal pedestrian promenade along ten miles of scenic cliffs. The cove at the Marina is as gorgeous as one can imagine, full of sleek sailboats, yachts, and fishing trawlers. Narrow, winding streets, lined with merchant shops and 600 year-old houses, snake through the old town near the marina. Connecting the residential and commercial areas, a swift tram parallels the promenade.

Of course, taking long walks through beautiful environments is not what brings most knockoff versions of every product imaginable. They’re young, rich, and looking to have fun without exerting themselves very much. Sailing from anchorages in search of even better places to swim, they eat, sleep and soak up the sun. We joined them for four days, and also found time to explore three ancient ruins in the hills which fronted the beaches.

Our Gullet Adventure
Natalie from Pasha delivers us from the airport in Antalya to the marina at Kerkova. It’s a 3-hour drive across mountains and winding narrow roads. We find at the end that I’ve left my camera back slung over the chair at the hotel restaurant, and subsequent searches prove fruitless. Oh well, a lesson learned. The boat is a 80-foot sloop with nine berths (five forward, four aft) separated by a galley. The passengers are all German, and only a few speak any English. The captain speaks only Turkish, and only the cook speaks German. Her husband (1st Mate) helps both her and the captain, and seems nice enough, buy depends on her to communicate with the rest.

Here’s a little from Pat’s Journal:

We are assigned a quite comfy cabin – with a spacious full bath and almost double bed. The foam mattress actually is the most comfortable we’ve had in Turkey. The other 13 passengers went on a full-day excursion to some canyon to hike, so we visit with a German-Dutch couple who speak English well. Then, we walk around Kerkova – this takes about 20 minutes, and return to the boat to lie on the comfortable cushion seats and enjoy the warm but not hot weather. The pier we are on has about a dozen “daytrip” boats and three other gullets berthed. The neighbor gullet has to use our plank to board their boat. I learn we will be traveling with them throughout. It also has 17 – all German speakers. Although most know English – their banter is all in German – so we are somewhat isolated. But it’s okay, we came to chill out. After three weeks as part of a group, we have an excuse to stand off a bit.

Breakfast the next morning was bread, cheese, butter, tomatoes, and cucumbers with coffee or tea and a thin but tasty omelet. We pulled anchor, headed a few kms east to another cove, anchored again, and all took a swim (except me – got an ear ache). Afterward, we all stretch out like pashas and enjoy the breezes.. Most of the day was spent swimming or soaking up the sun”.

We awoke the next day to the ship’s motor starting up. We are heading east to Olympos. We stop in a shallow bay for breakfast. It’s a bit hazy, but the breeze makes for not too hot a day. We go on to Olympos, and pull into a long beach with ruins on the cliffs right on the water’s edge. The captain takes us by outboard to the shore, and a short walk inland gets us to the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine ruins. It’s quite hot, but a cooling stream runs through a steep valley to the bay, and the ruins are on either side of it. On the road to it, we meet our friends Arthur and Bev from our Grand Turkey Tour coming from the west end parking lot. They had taken a tour bus from a local hotel, and were as surprised as we were. We bring each other up to date on all our interim adventures and fellow travelers, and promise to see each other soon. We’re sure we will, and we’ll stop by to see them whenever we get back to Australia. We have quite a few new friends to see there now.

The ruins include an amphitheater, necropolis, Byzantine Church, huge Roman arched gate, irrigation canals leading to a two-story house with mosaic floors, and several large
Sarcophagus (i)?. Back to the boat for another cruise to a bay, and sight of another ruin (Phaselius). This one is larger, and contains an aqueduct and a central paved main street with temples. After an hour ashore, we sail again to a small bay to anchor and swim again.

The captain and first mate go ashore to fill four large bottles of water. We learn that the group seems to be running through showers too frequently (all this swimming and rinsing off on deck). The captain is upset, and the group gets very tense about it. Adding to the tension is the fact that the toilets aren’t flushing, and the captain isn’t clear about what is the cause.”

The next two days are an interesting drama. As it turned out, the water pump had broken. This led to some hostility between the captain and the cook, and between the captain and the owner of the boat when we finally docked for the final night. On Sunday morning breakfast, as we were about to leave for our flights, we heard that the captain was fired. We weren’t surprised, as most of us had sided with the cook. As valuable as captains are, they are no match for multilingual, competent chefs who don’t break parts of their boats.

Thoughts about Historic Ruin Tour Design
We probably had the perfect ruin tour design. First, it takes a special group of travelers who are both physically and mentally prepared for the rigors of multi-ruin, 300km days. Second, it takes a bright, sensitive, and motivated tour guide to be able to keep the tour group on its schedule. Third, it takes a very good driver to navigate the roads and military/governmental barriers which present themselves. We had all three.

Our core tour group was composed of eight Australians and seven North Americans. All were seasoned travelers over 40 years of age. At one point, we concluded that collectively we had been everywhere on the planet (including one woman who had been to Antarctica three times). Most had cameras, were good hikers, and could exit a bus in under a minute.

Our guides were eager to lead such a group. We learned later how important it was to a guide to have travelers who didn’t fall asleep every time they got on a bus for the next leg of the trip (especially after lunch if there was another ruin before the long hall to the next hotel). One of the tips for a good outing is for the guide and the travelers to have a good conversation on the bus about what to expect when you get to the site. The worst kind of outing is when all of the explanations about the ruins have to occur on the site. Most travelers want to be set free once they get off the bus to explore with the knowledge they have (from guides or guidebooks). Standing around in the hot sun or rain listening to a guide say what he should have said in the bus – is a real downer for the trip.

Travelers should be capable of keeping up with the group, should not spending time wandering away from the site, or delaying the group by not returning at the designated time to the bus.

Today, we went looking for the Archeological Museum, and the cisterns. We had to wait until noon to get started in order to secure designated seats on our flight home, we were moving quickly through both. We were not disappointed by either. To say that we keep encountering things that overwhelm us is the understatement. I am only disappointed that I was not able to avoid the museum cops more in order to take more photos (no flash rules were being strictly enforced, and the exhibits were all very dark). My next camera will be easier to know how to turn off the flash!!

For a look at the day's photos, click on: Turkey Tuesday June 3

Turkey, Monday June 2 Continued


I'm awake now. It’s 6am in the morning on Tuesday, and you are all probably getting ready for bed on Monday. But we opened the windows on a hot Istanbul evening last night, and the crows gave us our wakeup call early. A few mosquitoes got to Pat while the covers were off. Thus begins what will probably be a long day and a half awake before the flight. I find it increases the chances of sleeping on the plane on the way home if I’m tired.

And lest I forget my culinary reporting duties – last night I broke down amidst nibbling from a bag of dried fruit and almonds while watching TV. Frazier reruns in English, and Lost in Turkish were bringing back a craving too long postponed, so I told Pat I was going to hike over to the local McDonald’s for a chicken burger, fries, and a coke. On the way, a gentleman from Kazikstan asked me in Turkish if I'd help him find his hotel. He apologized when he heard my response in English. He said he thought I looked like I was Turkish. Guess the tourist look has worn off.

Fortunately, we had a second, smaller camera in the storage bag here in Istanbul. I retrieved it yesterday morning, and took some photos of our first day back in the city. In these last two days, we have some specific things we wanted to see. Yesterday’s sights were the Galata Tower and bridge, another mosque we had heard about, the waterfront and picnic area, the funicular tunnel, and the pedestrian walk from the tunnel to Taksin Square. Today, we’re headed to the cisterns, the Archeaological museum, the Grand Mosaics museum, and the Dolmabahce Palace.

On the plane, I’m going to try to recap the last week in three chapters: Antalya – the Latest Gold Coast; The Gullet Experience; and the Ultimate Ruin Tour Visit Design. I’ll post today’s photos tonight before we get our last night’s sleep in Turkey. Tomorrow, we fly over the pole to Chicago, and then to SF.

For a look at the day's photos, click on: Turkey Monday June 2

Monday, June 2, 2008

Turkey Monday June 2


It’s been nine days since my last post, and much has happened. The good news is that in that period, we’ve been able to experience even more of the beauty of Turkey. We’ve spent a couple of days in Ankara, the country’s capital. The time we spent there, and in the coastal resort of Antalya, revealed different cultural perspectives. But, more about that later. The good news continues by including our relaxing four days on a gullet sailing the cool green waters of the Mediterranean southwest of Antalya.

The bad news is that you’ll all have to wait a bit longer for any photos of the experiences. At breakfast last Sunday, I draped my camera strap over the back of my chair. I didn’t notice that I had left it there until I was getting out of the car of our driver (Natalie) on the dock, and about to retrieve the bag we packed from her trunk. Oops. Hoping I had simply packed it up in the bag, we looked as Natalie drove the three hours back to the hotel to query the staff. The sad truth was clear when she met us again yesterday morning at our last stop on the cruise. But just to reinforce how remarkable this trip is, I can report that several of our friends from the boat have volunteered to provide me with copies of their photos, and seem eager to follow the blog and our continued adventures. So, stay tuned. We may eventually get to see what the gullet experience was. In the meantime, I know you won’t be disappointed to read that I’ll be borrowing from Pat’s journal to recap some of the week’s adventures. She says her narratives aren’t as good as earlier, and I’ll be adding some comments of my own.

This is our “travel day” to Ankara. We wake up to a leisurely breakfast – only to find most of our mates have the same idea. We identify each other’s flight and travel plans while sharing the last tour meal, and genuinely try to ensure we stay connected. We go back to our room, and pack a week’s worth of clothes, etc. into one bag. With some effort, it was done, and we dropped it off at the Golden Crown. Then, trudged up to the tram stop. For $2, we took the tram and the Metro to the Airport.

Our 45-minute flight on Turkish Air included a sandwich and a beverage! A Havas bus and a cab gets us to the SAS Radisson Hotel and a great top floor view. Gregory says it’s our sixteenth hotel room, and I think it’s the best yet. It’s early in the evening, and we decide to take a walk through the area.

Walking in the urban areas of Turkey is a real challenge. The pedestrian plight is pretty bad in the cities. People literally weave their way across streets between speeding cars – it’s really a blood sport. We notice that cars do not stop or even slow down for walkers. A horn is used to warn them to get out of the way, while they bare down on you. If there are any secrets to staying alive, it is probably to find a family with children or elderly. They are both better at timing the run, and gather some apparent sympathy from the drivers.

We walk by a large park and find it in great disrepair with rubble where structures have been, and trash everywhere. Later, we learn that it was the site of a musical concert, and cleanup proceeds the next morning. We look all around for a restaurant, and the few we find are closed. On the way back to our hotel in the rain, we find a café and have a disappointing pizza and chicken burger

We have a great sleep in our cushy hotel, and a pretty swank breakfast. We learn that the Anatolian Cultural Museum is open so we head out on foot. It lies on a hillside behind us in an older part of town (Ulus), and the roads to get there are quite indirect. We go through a market stall area, some windy back alleys, and emerge onto a busy market street. We go up a street lined with “fancy dress” (ball gowns, wedding dress, and the over-the-top boy’s circumcision outfits – Gregory calls them drum major-like). Then off to one more side street and we are in a hillside park that contains the museum.

The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is a gem! In many rooms, the different ages build on each other well. Starting with early tools from Paleolithic sites in southern Turkey, moving to a Neolithic site (Catalhoyuk) where a reconstructed house displays large bull heads on the walls. The variety of eras demonstrate clear devotions to prominent mother goddesses (Cybele, Kubaba) in their statues, frescoes, and wall paintings. They are shown seated with animals are their sides, and also feature bulls, ducks, and deer.

The Chalcolithic Age (copper) has fine pottery with strong geometric designs in both red, black, and white. In the bronze age, bull and stag statuettes abound, but still several goddesses. Gold appears as well, and the pottery just gets better with etchings human-figured pots.

Then Assyrian colonization with cuneiform tablets including a will, a divorce proclamation, and an unopened “envelope”. Still better pots with face reliefs, and animal figurines attached to handles and lots of shapes with intricate inlaid wooden tables and pottery with charming characters of lions, rams, stags, and goose-shaped pots. Gregory is going crazy taking pictures, and we bought a book by the museum describing the collection.

We wanted to visit this museum because in so many ruin sites, our guides would indicate that some important piece of work we weren’t seeing – was in a museum in Ankara. What wasn’t taken to Berlin by the German railroad companies in the 1870’s, or the British in the 1890’s, is now here in this museum.

Outside the museum, we followed a road up the hill to a section called “old town” with more charming old streets and ancient brick and plaster homes and shops. Eventually, e got to the Citadel – a fort-like structure at the top of the hill overlooking the town with great views. We found a small courtyard restaurant, and had a great lamb “stew” with chiles and tomatoes and tender lamb. That, and the veggie plate and a beer was just what was needed.

We wake to a sunny, clear day in Ankara, and walk to the Ethnographic Museum only 15 minutes away. It’s on a small hill in a marble-clad grand house. There are examples of fine embroidered Ottoman-era clothing. Also, fine examples of wood carving and calligraphy. But the collection is small, and we are out of there in 30 minutes. Next door, we go to an even finer grand mansion which houses the art museum. There are at least 20 young uniformed folk who sit around drinking tea. Another half dozen are serving as cleaners or groundskeepers. We seem to be the only visitors, and are certainly being served well. The mostly oil paintings begin in the 1800’s, and are pretty second rate compared to the European masters, but I did like Celli.

From the front of the mansions, we see Ataturk’s memorial atop a nearby hill. I think the Ethnographic served as the site for Atatuk’s lying-in-state, as there are photos of a funeral procession inside, and a large roped off area with a wreath.

Around 11am, we pack up our bag and walk it back along the streets to the central Havas bus station which provide service between downtown and the airport. When the bus is full of passengers, it leaves for the one-hour trip to the airport. Once there, we pass through to the gate and wait for our plane to arrive. It’s an unusual experience waiting for a plane to come to the gate. In the two hours before we finally boarded, I think we saw five planes land. In one of the most beautiful and sophisticated airports in the world, it felt like a ghost town. It may have been because it was Sunday, but I got the feeling that Ankara may not be the most popular place of travel lately.

Arriving in Antalya was the opposite. It’s definitely the place those wanting to vacation in the sun are going. More about that in the next few days.