Homer's Travels: April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

One More Face To Face

I've made a few online friends over the years.  I've met a few these friends in person shifting them from online to real world.  I met GeekHiker and Just A Girl in February 2008 and GeekHiker again in May 2008.  Today I converted another online friend into a reality.

I met Dobegil in the Haymarket district of Lincoln for lunch.  She's in Nebraska visiting her son.  We spent a nice couple hours eating good food and talking good talk (though I think I may have monopolized the conversation - nerves I think).  It's always nice to put a face and voice to an online name.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Music: John Mellencamp With ... Nobody

On Wednesday night the Wife and I went to see John Mellencamp perform at the Omaha Music Hall.  I had been led to believe by an upcoming events RSS post that Elvis Costello would warm up for him.  It turned out to be incorrect.  This tainted the evening for me as I was more interested in Elvis Costello than in Mellencamp.

The show started with an hour long concert movie filmed during Mellencamp's last tour and during the recording of his latest album "No Better Than This".  This was done in lieu of a warm up act and seemed a little odd.  I kept thinking that I was going to hear the same music twice.  Turns out, I was right.

After a short intermission after the movie, Mellencamp and his band came on and played two solid hours of music.  The set was a mix of old and new with a slight bias towards the new.  I have to admit, since I never was a big Mellencamp fan, I did not recognize many of the songs.  That being said, it was an enjoyable concert.  I especially like the slightly tweaked version of "Jack & Diane" - He gave it a more contemporary, up tempo sound to the song.

In my opinion Miriam Sturm,  the violinist/fiddler, stole the show.  She was awesome.  The Wife also liked her and was also impressed by the use of the accordion in the music.  The accordion didn't impress me as much but that might be because it was featured during the Decemberists concert and I liked their player better than Mellencamp's.

Overall, the Wife thought the concert was awesome and I thought it was okay ... pretty good even ... but not spectacular.

One cool thing was, when you bought the concert tickets, you were emailed a link to download the MP3 for John Mellencamp's new album for free.  That was a nice touch.  It's an idea that I hope catches on.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book: William Melczer's "The Pilgrim's Guide To Santiago De Compostela"

William Melczer's "The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela" is a very interesting read that I can recommend to absolutely no one I know.  How do you recommend an English translation of a 12th century pilgrim's guide?  I can't even recommend it for someone who is walking the camino as the material is some 800 years out of date and I expect very little of it applies to the modern pilgrimage.

The book is essentially divided into three sections.  The first section is a discussion of Saint James and the birth of the Camino and the cult of Saint James.  This section starts out very slow and the author has a thing for long words such as Hagiographical but as you continue to wade through the linguistic muck the way clears and the reading becomes clearer and easier on the grey matter.  Most of this section is very scholarly, digging deep into the historic, religious, and iconographic analysis of Saint James.

The second section is a translation, from the original Latin, of book five of the Codex Calixtinus, a 12th century document.  Book five is a guide for the traveler talking about the towns, rivers (safe and poisonous), people (safe and poisonous), and Saintly relics that must be visited along the way.  I especially found entertaining the section where greedy ferrymen are berated and condemned to damnation.  Not only are the ferrymen damned but so are those who forgive them.  It's interesting to see the Camino from such a different perspective.

The third section are the notes.  The notes are substantial.  To give you an idea how substantial, the first section is 82 pages, the second section is 51 pages, and the notes (notes, Hagiographical register, Gazetteer, Bibliography, and Index) are 212 pages.  I decided not to read the notes.  I'm not a masochist.

I actually liked the book.  I'm not sure exactly why but it kept me reading even if I only read 40% of the book.  I can't recommend it ... but I liked it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And The Magic Eight Ball Says ...

I went geocaching today.  I parked downtown and found five caches along an 8.69 mile route.  In one of the caches I found a miniature magic eight ball.  I decided that I couldn't leave the cache without asking a question so I asked:

Will I finish the Camino?

The magic eight ball responded with an answer in it's little window:

I Say Yes!

Well then, I feel so much more confident now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Music: The Decemberists With Justin Townes Earle

Sunday I did something that should be on every music lover's bucket list.  I, along with the packed Holland Performing Arts center audience, participated in singing the Decemberists' "The Mariner's Revenge Song".  The GodSon had mentioned this before, it seems to have become a Decemberists concert staple, and it was as fun as he describe it.  It is one of the highlights of my limited concert experiences.  Right up there with having Billy Joe Armstrong spitting beer on me.

But I get way ahead of myself.  Back to the beginning.  On Sunday I went to a concert, this time sans the Wife.  She had not heard the Decemberists and wasn't keen on spending a Sunday night, a school night at that, seeing if she liked a band or not.  I can fully understand this and, frankly, the Decemberists can be an acquired taste. I bought one of their CDs ("Picaresque") at the suggestion of the GodSon.  I listened to it and thought I'd wasted another $15 bucks.  A few weeks later I gave it another shot and found it more interesting this time.  A third listen and I was sold.  I bought a second CD ("The Crane Wife") which I found just as good and, this time, appreciated after the first listen.  (I have learned that it takes three listens for me to really appreciate music.)

It felt weird sitting in my seat waiting for the show to start without the Wife beside me.  This wasn't the first time, I've been to several free concerts alone, but it was the first time I paid to see someone without the Wife.  It felt strange.  Fortunately the show started and the good tunes washed over me I my misgivings faded.  I still wished she'd been there with me.

The warm up act was Justin Townes Earle, someone I'd never heard.  He had a rocking country sound that kept my interest and was appreciated by the crowd.  While I liked him as a warm up for the Decemberists, I'm not sure I would buy any of his stuff.  I'm just not into country music.

The Decemberists came on and were pretty amazing.  I was only familiar with a quarter or a third of the songs but I appreciated what I heard.  Lead singer, Colin Meloy, has a very distinctive and recognizable singing voice. The Decemberists are known for the large instrumental repertoire, violin, mandolin, bass violin, keyboard, drums, guitar, bass, and, my favorite, the accordion, which give way to a rich and complex sound that compliment nicely the rich and complex lyrics.

The Decemberists played for two hours, including two encores.  The first encore was the Mariner's Revenge Song, a crowd favorite.  It's an odd, fun little song.  As you can see from the beginning of the post, I found the experience to be a positive one.

At the merch. table I bought a cool T-Shirt with what looks like a hiker on the front (probably not a hiker but it looks like one) and "Of dirt you are made and to dirt you will return" on the back with the tour dates.  The shirt reminds me of Spain ... like just about everything these days.

I had a good time.  I enjoyed the music.  I like my T-Shirt.

Next on the list, John Mellencamp with ... Elvis Costello (!!!) .

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thirty Days To Go

Today marks T- 30 days.  I leave a month from today.  Things seem to be coming together nicely.

The Wife has her students bring in quotes they find interesting.  They are written on note cards and posted in her classroom for all to see.  She brought one home that is very appropriate for what I'll be doing in a month and it's posted on our refrigerator.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Is It A Good Deed When No Deed Is Done?

The other day I was sitting in the den, putzing with the computer, when I hear, through the open window, the chinga-chinga of a passing ice cream truck.  I would normally think nothing of it except for what followed.  From my window I heard the voice of a little girl saying in her little voice ...
"Stop.  Please.  I want ice cream.  Don't go.  I'm coming.  Please stop ..."
I went to the window and saw a little girl pushing her little bike up the street as fast as her little legs would go ... which, incidentally, was not very fast.  The ice cream truck driver did not hear her little cries for ice cream, her voice drowned out by the chinga-chinga of his, out of tune, bells.  He turned up a side street and was about to go away when I found myself yelling out the open window ...
... at the top of my lungs.  To my surprise, the ice cream truck driver stopped.  I'm sure he wondered what the heck was that.  I yelled out the window, this time at the little girl ...
"He's just around the corner.  He's waiting for you.  Hurry"
She hurried and I'm sure the ice cream truck driver saw her.  I sat back down in front of the computer, satisfied with my good deed, when I heard that tiny voice say:
"I don't have money.  I have to go get some money."
I sighed and waited.  Minutes passed and I heard the ice cream truck's bells chinga-chinga once again as it pulled away.  I figured that the little girl had gotten some money and was enjoying her ice cream.

Five minutes, more or less, went by and once again I heard that tiny little voice, in the saddest little tone, say:
"Where did he go?"

*sigh*  My good deed was all for naught.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Buy Early Or Buy Late?

I still haven't figured out when the best time to buy airline tickets is.  There are a lot of factors that just can't be predicted.  One of those right now is the price of fuel.  I bought my flights to Spain back in early October.  I spent $905 on them.  I thought this might be a little steep at the time but, frankly, I had never bought tickets to Europe before so I really didn't have any idea.

Despite not having any idea, or because of it, I still fretted about it as I always do with these types of financial decisions.  It was during this fretting that I ran across Yapta.  Yapta allows you to track flights that you are going to buy and flights you've already purchased and receive emails when ticket prices move up or down a certain amount.  Let's say your flight goes down in price.  Some airlines will refund you the difference in ticket prices if the amount is large enough (for American Airlines, who has some of the highest re-booking fees, the amount has to be greater than $250 for European flights to make it worth your while).  Yapta is aware of these re-booking fees and will let you know if the price has dropped to the point that it might be worth your while to request a refund.

I received an email from Yapta today. Should I get a refund?  Heck no!  If I bought the ticket today I would pay  $1,745 - a 93% increase over what I spent last October.  Crazy.  I guess I have Tunisia ...and Egypt ... and Yemen ... and Bahrain ... and Syria ... and Libya ... to blame.  I'm very grateful that I bought those tickets back in October.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Getting My Kicks, Planning Route 66

As if all the planning for my Camino hike isn't enough, today I started mapping out our Route 66 drive for later this summer.   I have to get this planning done before I leave for Spain as I'll only be home a week before we leave on what will become our longest roadtrip.

I started with a book ("Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers") and some maps ("Here It Is! The Route 66 Map Series"). The book and maps give turn by turn directions, along with sights to see and history to learn about, for the entire Route 66 from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA.

The first thing I wanted to figure out is how long it would take.  Using the book, maps, and Google Maps I plotted out the route.  Turns out, if you tell Google Maps to avoid highways, the directions you get are very close to the original route 66.  I determined stopping points assuming I would not want to drive more than seven or eight hours each day.  When we did out Kansas roadtrip last year we averaged eight hours driving a day and had plenty of time to see the sights even with the short March days (11.5 hours).   We will be driving route 66 in July so there will be a lot more daylight (15 hours).

We'll be sticking with the original route as close as possible as long as the car can make it (some short stretches are not maintained and impassable by the average Honda).  The only diversion we're planning to take is a short one hour side trip to my first home town, Camdenton, MO, and the Lake of the Ozarks.  I look forward to showing the Wife where I spent the first nine years of my life.

Turns out we will pull into Santa Monica, CA in eight days.  Three days visiting our California peeps, a couple days to get to San Francisco (two days because we have to stop in our favorite town, Cambria, where we'll spend the night), a couple days in San Francisco (where we'll try, once again, to get to Alcatraz and Angel Island), and three days to get home.  Eighteen days.  Our longest roadtrip ever.

The next step is to figure out where we will stop along the way.  Because of the scope of the trip, 2,448 miles for route 66 alone (over 4,500 total), this may be more of a plan-on-the-fly type vacation.  The type where the Wife reads through the books (route 66 and AAA) to figure out where we will stop the next day while we drive down the old country roads to our next destination.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Rules And Regulations

GeekHiker asked what would happen if I didn't get all the stamps in my pilgrims credential.  That's a good question.  I haven't mentioned anything about the Campostela and the rules for receiving it at the end of the pilgrimage.

The Campostela is a certificate of completion given out by the Cathedral of Saint James.  It certifies that a person has completed the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostela has been around since the 9th or 10th centuries.  Some of the rules associated with the pilgrimage have grown out of religious requirements for receiving indulgences that go back to the 12th century.  To receive the Campostela, one must walk or ride horseback for at least 100 km (~62.14 miles) or bike at least 200 km (~124.27miles).  To prove that you have completed these distances you must get two stamps ("sellos") every day for the last 100 km or 200 km for bikers.  One stamp per day /stage beyond the 100 km is sufficient.

So, what happens if I didn't get the stamps?  I would not get a Campostela.  I am not going to walk 481 miles and not get a Campostela because I didn't get enough stamps.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Fishermen Doing What They Do Best

Fishermen Doing What They Do Best
Took a walk today. Did 15.63 miles.  It was a near perfect day with plenty of sun and a cool breeze.  I took this picture in the Walnut Creek Recreation Area in Papillion, just south of Omaha.  I think I finally feel Spring in the air.