Thursday, August 31, 2006

#21 Amtrak vs. M/V Explorer

We’re in the midst of our 4th consecutive day without sight of land. We’re clipping along on the world’s fastest passenger ship at an average speed of 17 knots or about 20 mph according to the GPS Channel on the TV in our room.
0422 GPS TV
Had we just stayed on Amtrak to Hawaii, we’d already be there waiting for the M/V Explorer ;-) Such thoughts put us in a comparison frame of mind.
Amtrak M/V Explorer
Room Size 56 sq ft160 sq ft
Food GoodGood and unlimited
TowelsChanged on requestChanged every day
Internet Never Almost always
Ride Rock and roll Roll
Crew Sparse and attentive Plentiful and attentive

Let me be clear…the M/V Explorer is a great ride. More to come on this magnificent vessel.

Yours in learning port from starboard,

#20 Kansas City Barbeque

Happy 20th anniversary to our friends Barry and Jessica.

We thought of you two when we were having some tasty grub at Kansas City Barbeque in San Diego a few days ago.
0365 Kelly at KC Barbeque
Yup, right there in downtown San Diego we read on the menu “Kansas City joints such as Bryant’s, Hayward’s, Gates’, and Rosedale’s enjoy a nationwide reputation for good food at a reasonable price.” Having dined at all these fabulous establishments ourselves, we’re glad to hear they each enjoy a national reputation.
0367 jukebox at KC Barbeque
As if serving Kansas City barbeque isn’t enough, this particular joint in San Diego became even more famous when Tom Cruise stopped by to film the piano scene and the final bar/jukebox scene in Top Gun.

Yours in celebrating your Top Marriage,

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

#19 Classes Started Today

Classes started today, so I sat in on 5:
Exoticism in Literature
History of Art and Architecture in Asia
Earth’s Climate Systems
Magazine Article Writing
Global Studies. 
Students get priority, but we adult passengers can sit in with the prof's approval. All approved.

I learned exoticism is the literary representation of one culture for consumption by another and I'll need to brush up on my speed-reading to keep up. I learned I'll need to arrive early to get a seat to learn about Asian architecture. And I learned 5 classes leave me beat even before tonight's film on race relations.

Since we left sunny Ensenada, we’ve not seen the sun, and I learned in ECS class that’s typical for the open ocean in sub-tropical regions this time of year. Small breaks in the cloud deck made for a snazzy sunset, laced with crepuscular rays.
0420 PacificSunset
Yours in paying attention in class,

Monday, August 28, 2006

#18 Leaving Ensenada

Finding Mary busy with library matters, I shared my first on-shore adventure with Alden, a member of the SAS faculty whose travel writing classes overflow with budding Bill Brysons. Exploring Ensenada, we kept an eye on Alden's watch. Without my cell phone, I live in a world with no time and watching the ship sail away without us would spoil our day. I need to get a watch. Breakfast and lunch with a special dessert-only stop for flan…that was our take on the touristy town of Ensenada. We rated the local flan a solid 5 on the international flan 10 scale.
0393 bookstore in Ensenada
Avoiding the Viagra shops, persistent street vendors, seafood carts, and hopefully hepatitis, we arrived back at the ship with 30 minutes to spare, cleared security, and climbed the gangway smiling. While we were out, all the students arrived. They tell me the bus system shuttling students from San Diego to Ensenada worked OK. The Semester At Sea staff put a lot of effort into making it work. Sadly, those staff not directly involved in the rest of the voyage left the ship in Ensenada, waving good-bye from the dock as a single tug pushed us away toward Hawaii.
0416 Mary and tugboat at Ensenada
Yours in waving adios to Mexico,

Sunday, August 27, 2006

#17 Welcome to Ensenada

Shortly after sunrise, we pulled alongside the dock in Ensenada, Mexico, on this quiet Sunday morning. Mary and Captain Roman Krstanovic from Dubrovnic, Croatia, oversaw the docking operations.
0386 Mary and Capt Krstanovic oversee docking in Ensenada
A few locals milled around the passenger terminal where later today, 20 busloads of students are scheduled to arrive at regular intervals to board our ship to begin their Semester At Sea. By day’s end, we’ll have a full ship. With much to do to prepare the library for the start of classes Tuesday, Mary will work today and I’ll explore Ensenada with a goal to make it back on ship for our departure at 1700 hours.
0383 Ensenada Harbor
Yours in Mexico,

#16 Our First Night At Sea

During the lifeboat drill last night before we departed San Diego, the crew told us to expect ocean swells of 6 to 8 feet during our overnight passage to Ensenada, Mexico. A short while later a general announcement boomed over the public address reminding us that unlimited sea-sickness medication is always available free 24/7 outside the clinic on deck 2. Hmmmm.

But the old-timers assured us this was no big deal. We took their advice, went to bed unmedicated, and slept soundly as the ship gently rolled through the night.

Yours in paying attention to good advice,

#15 Tonight We Sail

After 4 days of training and orientation in port at San Diego’s harbor, tonight we sail. We’ve quickly grown accustomed to a calm routine on board with staff, faculty, and crew. Tonight, the energy jumped a notch when the parents boarded the ship for a reception. Here are the librarians admiring the chocolate castle built for the reception.
0375 Librarians at Parent Reception
The parents have disembarked and tomorrow, upon arrival in Ensenada, Mexico, 550 students will board, completing our shipboard community. New routines will ensue. But for tonight, we sail.

Yours in setting sail,

Saturday, August 26, 2006

#14 Social Event of the Season

Happy wedding day to Ty and Elisa! Last week, on the eve of our departure from Indy, we happyhoured with our single friends Ty and Elisa one last time.
20060818 029 Elisa and Ty
We are sorry to miss the social event of the season and we look forward to seeing the photos and hearing the stories on our return – perhaps after breakfasting at the City CafĂ©!

Yours in celebrating marriage,

Friday, August 25, 2006

#13 Low flying GPS satellite

The only GPS satellite on public display in the world is in San Diego. I convinced Mary our trip to the San Diego Air and Space Museum to see this unique display was a mandatory research trip since I’ll be presenting a GPS session during the voyage.
0238 GPS satellite - the only one on display in the world
Of the 69 museum exhibits (most of them full-sized aircraft), only one was a satellite. Donated by the US Air Force and the Boeing Corporation, this was one of the original craft built in the 1970’s that was never launched and used for testing improvements to later versions of GPS satellites. So while other GPS satellites are circling 12,000 miles overhead, only one hangs about 20 feet aloft over San Diego.

Yours in fooling Mary some of the time,

#12 Embarkation

We’re on the ship! We’ve been talking about this for months and we’re finally here. On August 23, 2006 we walked up the gangway to the fifth deck.
0278 M embarking
The fifth deck is home to some administrative offices, a dining hall, and our cabin. It’s a terrific cabin – much larger than Amtrak’s sleeper car. It has a big square window about 3’ x 3’, closets, shelves and drawers enough to hold all our stuff, a small table and chair, a small desk and chair, a television with the Semester at Sea station and San Diego’s network television stations, a telephone, and a bathroom.
0283 our cabin
There are seven decks on the ship. These are the things I’ve found so far. On level 6 - the library, computer lab, union and another dining hall. On level 7 – the swimming pool, basketball court, and exercise facility. The only reason I’ve found to go down to level 4 is the ping pong table.

Yours in climbing the gangway to heaven,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

#11 Fifty Words and a Picture

Happy 20th anniversary tomorrow to our friends and role models, Rob and Donna!

Not only did they travel for four+ months...
they carried and cooked their own meals (no 3 meals per day provided)
they wore the same clothes over and over (no valet laundry service provided)
they walked from town to town (no ship to carry them)
they slept out under the stars (no comfy cabin to come home to each night)
and they journaled with pencil and paper!

And one year after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, they’re still together, still happy and already starting on another new adventure. Happy anniversary. In a tribute to all 20-year marriages in Colorado, we released We Are Still Married: Stories and Letters at the La Junta train station.
Surreptitiously releasing We Are Still Married...
In this book, Garrison Keillor taught me how to write postcards. Garrison wrote, “A postcard takes about fifty words gracefully, which is how to write one. A few sweet strokes in a flowing hand – pink roses, black-face sheep in a wet meadow, the sea, the Swedish coast – your friend in Washington gets the idea. She doesn’t need your itinerary to know that you remember her. Fifty words is a strict form but if you write tiny and sneak over into the address side to squeeze in a hundred, the grace is gone and the result is not a poem but notes for a letter you don’t have time to write, which will make her feel cheated.”

Yours in needing way more than 50 words to congratulate our friends,

Monday, August 21, 2006

#10 Welcome to San Diego

This was our first sight when we stepped off the train in San Diego...
Welcome to San Diego...
Yup, the MV Explorer! But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. We had a fabulous time traveling to San Diego by train. Two of us on that train out of Indy were clearly not heading for work or a shopping day in Chicago! Our Amtrak route took us from Indy to Chicago to Kansas City to Los Angeles to San Diego. Trains and people - we found this to be a good mix. Harry Truman said, “You get a real feeling of this country and the people in it when you are on a train.” Harry, we agree. In Chicago, Kathryn lunched with us and gifted us with champagne. She introduced us to Jerry, the basketball coach who will be taking on the Jayhawks this year before our return. How we wish we could attend!
Jerry, Mary, Kelly, and Kathryn
In Kansas City, Eric, Tina, Joyce, and Lynn greeted us on the platform for a quick visit. To our surprise at the “All Aboard” call, Joyce and Lynn boarded the train with us for the midnight ride to Lawrence, Kansas, extending our visit into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Joyce and Lynn are like the section hikers that joined Rob and Donna for a day on the Pacific Crest Trail last year.
On the platform in Kansas City
In Los Angeles, Christina stole away from Loyola-Marymount long enough to welcome us to California and point us toward the Pacific Surfliner to take us to San Diego. We’ll be coming back again for a longer visit.
Mary saying hello to Christina...
Thanks to our greeters across the country who joined us at the stations and to all those well wishers who live nowhere near the Southwest Chief route. And to those special people we met on the train – Idelia, Roosevelt, Carlos, Judith, Joyce, and our luggage helpers in Indy – we thank you for the train ride of our life. A lot of cool stuff happened on the way – too much to talk about here. After all, we’re headed out to explore San Diego! Be sure to click on the link to our photos to see more of our adventures.

Yours in San Diego,

Thursday, August 17, 2006

#9 Bookcrossing

Q: How do you pack for a 4-month trip?
A: Pack everything you think you’ll need, then put half of it back in the closet.

Despite earlier reports of an unsuccessful practice pack, we have adjusted and are fitting 4 months worth of stuff into 3 big bags: 2 for me and 1 for Kelly. We’re also taking one carry-on bag, 2 laptops and a camera bag. The ship restricts us to 3 big bags each, so we’re all set. We have so much unused space in our luggage, I decided to carry a suitcase full of books with me – and these are books that I’ve already read!

Have you heard of Bookcrossing? Bookcrossing is the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise. It’s a word, really. I looked it up. It was added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in 2004. I have registered a dozen books from my personal collection at and then labeled each book with the unique Bookcrossing ID (BCID) provided.
I will leave each of these 12 books in a public place and then watch to see how many future readers will notice the label and will update the Bookcrossing web site. It’s a fun way to track those books that have meant something to me. My books to be left in public places:
• Brian Andreas - Going Somewhere Soon: Collected Stories & Drawings, BCID: 197-4311884
• Bill Bryson - I’m a Stranger Here Myself, BCID: 199-4310704
• Garrison Keillor – We Are Still Married, BCID: 778-4334230
• Garrison Keillor – WLT: A Radio Romance, BCID: 769-4334403
• Alistair MacLeod - Island: The Collected Stories, BCID: 161-4311840
• Lucy Maud Montgomery - Anne of Avonlea, BCID: 871-4310867
• Tony Rasch - The Lupine Walker: A Journey, BCID: 938-4311800
• J. K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, BCID: 482-4311958
• John Steinbeck - Travels with Charley: In Search of America, BCID: 719-4310905
• Paul Theroux – The Old Patagonian Express: By Train through the Americas, BCID: 914-4311702
• Maria Augusta Trapp – The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, BCID: 455-4334397
• John Updike - Rabbit, Run, BCID: 653-4310894

The first book to be ‘released’ will be The Old Patagonian Express at Chicago’s Union Station this Saturday.

Yours in making the whole world a library,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

#8 Librarian at Sea

A successful practice pack has been completed! And no, I didn’t commandeer some of Kelly’s luggage. Once the traveling begins (this weekend!), we hope to keep you glued to our blog with up-to-the-minute (well, up-to-the-day) reports of our adventures that are even more exciting than the status of our packing.

Until then, you might want to check out the Librarian at Sea blog. There you’ll find the travel diary of the UVa librarian sailing with the summer Semester at Sea – scheduled to land on Monday in San Diego.

Yours in trying to keep you hanging until we get to the good stuff,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

#7 A Life-Changing Adventure?

Take a close look at these fourteen people. Thirteen are librarians. Can you find the non-librarian?
When you’re faced with a tough question, where do you turn? To librarians, of course. We asked these librarians how they predicted our lives would change as a result of our fall travels. They recorded their ideas on how we might be changed – spurred by personal experiences, quotes about traveling, lines from a poem, hallucinations, wild guesses – then carefully tied each into a neat scroll and stuffed it into a long-necked bottle. The secret messages in the bottle will remain hermetically sealed and untouched by human hands until opened to reveal the predictions (and their accuracy) at a welcome home party in December.
Under the umbrella, music played, cold beverages flowed, and the “Outdoor Section of the Indiana Chapter of the Special Libraries Association” held an extremely unofficial inaugural meeting. No minutes were kept.
Yours in believing it’s good to hang with librarians,

Saturday, August 12, 2006

#6 The Love Boat

Love, exciting and new Come aboard. We’re expecting you. Love, life’s sweetest reward. Let it flow, it floats back to you.
Last night, the Love Boat made another run at a nautical bon voyage extravaganza hosted by…
Unfortunately, Cap'n Stubing has retired, but Gopher gave up politics and ably manned the stern as the NCAA crowd stopped by to wish us well. Isaac's mixology skills are the stuff of cruise ship legend. He can make a perfect margarita, mix a mean mai tai, and zip up a zombie that'll take your breath away. And, like any good bartender, Isaac is no slouch when it comes to dispensing advice with each daiquiri. Last night, he settled a dispute between Kelly and me over just why I shouldn’t commandeer half of Kelly’s luggage. Then we made up.
Thanks to everyone for the high jinks on the high seas. Our course for adventure is set!

Yours in shipboard shenanigans,

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

#5 Never Pick Up a Tarantula

“Be very, very afraid. When you leave home, grave danger awaits. You might be mugged; attacked by scorpions, piranhas, or tarantulas; trapped in a falling plane or elevator, a runaway train, a sandstorm, a riptide, or a riot.” But now we’ll be safe, because our IDEM friends gave us a copy of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel, so we know what not to do: never pick up a tarantula and don't yank the reins of a runaway camel. And if a leech invades our air passage, we’ll gargle with a 50% solution of 80-proof alcohol and we’ll remember not to inhale.
Thank you, IDEM, for your concern, your good wishes, the candy-filled weapon, the penny architecture kit, the palm trees, the Treasure Island video, and the scrumptious send-off!

Yours in hoping we never need that survival handbook,

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

#4 The Surface of the Earth

Our objective is to circle the globe without leaving the surface of the earth - I’m married to a geographer, aren’t I? - so we’ll travel primarily by train, ship, and car. Other modes of transportation along the way may just include a bullet train, some jeeps, a bus or two, and maybe even a camel.

The ship. For the most part, we’ll be traveling by ship, the MV Explorer, a 24,000-ton passenger ship built in 2002 and equipped as a floating university.
The shipboard campus includes classrooms and a fabulous library (of course) that supports the itinerary. Other facilities include dining rooms, a student union, a campus store, a swimming pool, fitness facilities, a wellness center, and a health clinic.

The train. Since the MV Explorer sails from San Diego, we need to navigate from the middle of the country to the left edge of the country. The quickest option is to fly, but speed is clearly not our objective, since we’ve opted for a 2-day train trip. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief runs between Chicago and Los Angeles, across the mighty Mississippi through eight states - past wheat fields and ranches, missions and pueblos, mountains and deserts. From LA, we’ll take the Pacific Surfliner to San Diego. Our train trip starts on August 19 and we’re thrilled to think we might see some of you along the way.  Post a comment below to let us know to look for you on a train station platform in your town!

We board the MV Explorer in San Diego on August 23 for 4 days of orientation and the ship sails on August 27.

Yours in anxiously awaiting the train to leave the station with us on board,