Trip Report: Hawaii Big Island

Waipio Valley, note the waterfall on the cliff!

Views like this one of the Waipio Valley confirm Hawaii’s status as a world renowned tropical paradise

The Big Island of Hawaii is a land of contrasts. You can spend the morning hiking some of the lushest rain forests you’ll ever see and walk dry lava fields with miles stark black rock after lunch. You can explore lava tubes below ground and sip hot chocolate to stay warm while stargazing on a mountain top.

I recently spent a week exploring the Big Island and field testing some Merrell gear, and was amazed at the diversity of terrain and climates I found on this spectacular island in the middle of the Pacific.

MODERN HIKER JEEP

Some of my favorite trail guides can be found on ModernHiker.com, including the Kilauea Iki trail.

With views of an active volcano, stunning rock formations, thick jungle and great hiking trails, Volcano National Park was a great way to start our trip. We especially liked hiking across a crater on the Kilauea Iki trail, using the printed trail guide we were able to study and marvel at the ground below, which simply didn’t exist sixty years ago – it was liquid lava!

Rainbow over the Kilauea Iki crater

Rainbow over the Kilauea Iki crater

Exploring the crater floor, KW

Exploring the crater floor with our Merrell hats and my Highgate reversible shirt.

The ground is covered in rocks hinting at a violent and fiery past.

The ground is covered in rocks hinting at a violent and fiery past.

Near Kilauea Iki is the Thurston Lava Tube, an underground tunnel created by lava that you can explore.

Near Kilauea Iki is the Thurston Lava Tube, an underground tunnel created by lava that you can explore.

Exploring the rain forest at Volcano National Park

Exploring the rain forest at Volcano National Park

You can’t go to Hawaii without seeing a waterfall, and ‘Akaka Falls sprays a mist of fresh water among the green jungle.

Kristen watching the water fall at

Kristen watching the water fall at ‘Akaka Falls state park

Taking a break from the adventure, an afternoon of relaxing at the beach is highly advised.

Not a bad place to read a book

Not a bad place to read a book

Watching the waves and blocking sun rays with my Capra Hat and Merrill buff.

Watching the waves and blocking sun rays with my Capra Hat and Merrill buff at Hapuna Beach.

The Big Island is home to a Big Mountain, Mauna Kea. Do to it’s distance from any light pollution and clear skys, the summit houses some of the worlds most advanced astronomical equipment and researchers. We drove to the visitor’s center one night and enjoyed the sunset and the stars.

The Maunakea Visitor Station is a great place to watch the sunset and an even better place to view the stars

The Mauna Kea Visitor Station is a great place to watch the sunset and an even better place to view the stars

At 9,200' feel in elevation, the Mauna Kea Visitor Station gets cold, time to bundle up!

At 9,200′ feel in elevation, the Mauna Kea Visitor Station gets cold!

But my favorite part of the trip was being able to see an active volcano in action. From the rim of the crater we could watch the steam rise and fire glow as the earth burned and melted and morphed below.

Watching the lava glow from the deck of the Jagger Museum in Volcano National Park

Watching the lava glow from the deck of the Jagger Museum in Volcano National Park

Between the stunning beaches, world class hiking and amazing views, the Big Island of Hawaii is an amazing place to visit and a great place to field test some Merrell gear.

In this land of contrasts one thing remains consistent – this small island holds the potential for incredible outdoor adventure.

After The Storm

My college career was book ended by two terrible events in our nation’s history. The hijackings of 9/11 took place during my first week of freshman year, killing thousands of innocent people in a senseless act of terror. Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf during my road trip home from college, causing an astonishing amount of damage and taking almost 2,000 lives.

Like many Americans I witnessed both events unfold on TV, in the paper and on the radio. I felt sympathy, confusion, anger and exasperation. As a freshman I watched the aftermath of 9/11 from a distance and wanted to help, but didn’t know how. But with Katrina, I as able to actively contribute and work first-hand in the recovery efforts. That is because as fate would have it, I started my service term with AmeriCorps*NCCC about a week after the storm made landfall. Although I only spent a few months in the gulf coast during late 2005 and early 2006, the experience, memories and lessons I learned will stay with me forever.

A snapshot of the miles of storm damage

A snapshot of the miles of storm damage

When I first arrived in the gulf that fall many places around New Orleans were without running water, trash collection, or any open businesses for weeks or months. My team 12-person team worked alongside the National Guard, FEMA and various local organizations. We stayed in temporary compounds known as tent cities, sleeping on cots in huge tents and using port-a-potties for weeks at a time.

In a flash, some lost everything

In a flash, some lost everything

It was very humbling to be surrounded by mile after mile of utter destruction. It was sobering to stand on a slab of concrete where an entire house had recently been washed away. I will never forget the respect I gained for the ocean after seeing an iron beam folded in-half against a telephone pole like a twist-tie. The debris, stench, and silence were a haunting reminder of the storm surge’s violence. Simply put, huge portions of the gulf looked like a war zone.

My team Green 5 along with Green 6 working with a home owner in the fall of 2005

My team Green 5 along with Green 6 working with a home owner in the fall of 2005

I’ll never forget the feel of the thick, humid Louisiana air or the smell of the rotting trash and vegetation. I remember the weight of the mud and seaweed I shoveled out of someone’s kitchen. Under plastic hard-hats we would clear yards, our sweat saturating our cotton tee shirts. Behind steamed-up facemasks and respirators we removed moldy drywall from bedrooms and living rooms; the floodwater stain on the walls was often over our heads. We took care to preserve anything we could salvage, from family photos and heirlooms to household goods. The residents thanked us by giving us hugs, preparing us lunch or with kind words and eyes full of tears.

“Mucking” houses in St. Bernard Parish

In the spring of 2006 my team and I worked at the “Made With Love Cafe” in St. Bernard Parish. We served thousands of free meals for returning residence and relief workers each day alongside a very eclectic collective of volunteers. Under a series of tents that more closely resembled circus big top than a kitchen, we helped prepare, cook and serve a variety of food from dawn until nightfall.

Alisha, Amanda, Matt and Jordan at the

Alisha, Amanda, Matt and Jordan at the “Dish Pit” in the ‘Made With Love Cafe’

I’ll always remember listening to jazz on WWOZ while we cleaned dishes as the sun rose over the horizon. We would scrub pots and pans in a ceramic bathtub for hours, working at the collection of makeshift sinks that comprised the “dish pit”. I remember when an afternoon thunderstorm unleashed a torrential downpour from above, with wind gusts threatening to blow down the huge dome-shaped dining tent.

Me, Chance and Jerry at the Made With Love Cafe

Me, Chance and Jerry at the Made With Love Cafe

I remember hippies yelling AmeriCorps, F&@#-YEAH!!” like the song from Team America World Police. There was drum circles, a bike collective, a herbal remedies tent and a myriad of characters like Benja, Bright Eyes, and Chance (with his trademark tricycle). It was a surreal experience and proved to be one of our most memorable projects of our service term.

The dinning tent at the 'Made With Love Cafe

The dinning tent at the ‘Made With Love Cafe”

This was before ubiquitous smartphones, so for entertainment we relied on each other, books, ipods and writing letters – yes, actual paper letters! We would take time off to goof around and let off steam. We played frisbee on the lawns near camp, drank beer at a beach bonfire and enjoyed the music and strong drinks along Bourbon Street. We would spend weekends in the French Quarter eating beignets in Jackson Square, singing along at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and dancing down the sidewalk on Frenchmen Street.

Jerry, Alisha and I biking to the French Quarter on an off day

Jerry, Alisha and I biking to the French Quarter on an off day

Despite all the destruction and pain the storm caused, Katrina opened my eyes to a lot of beauty that I’ll never forget. The sun setting over the slowly flowing Mississippi; the smiles on the faces of volunteers from all over the country; the gratefulness of those we helped. My story is similar to the thousands of other AmeriCorps members, and I feel lucky enough to work alongside them as part of these recovery efforts.

I’ve been back to the New Orleans area many times since 2005 for work, vacation and to volunteer. I can honestly say that it is one of the most interesting, diverse and invigorating places I have ever been. Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, I had never been to the Gulf before my AmeriCorps term, but that year I fell in love with the people, music and food of creole, cajun, and New Orleans culture.

Brightman_AmeriCorps_PhotosMy NO picsIMG_1256

Green 5 – Lora, Becky, Jordan, Mark, Trevor, Alisha, Matt, Tara, Trish and Amanda at the Made With Love Cafe in St. Bernard Parish

You can’t always control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you react and move forward. Americans really came together in those early months after the storm and AmeriCorps mobilized to help out in many important ways. As time goes by and the Gulf moves forward I know that I will never forget the storm or it’s aftermath. August 29, 2005 It was a very dark day for America, but I take solace in knowing that no matter what challenges lay ahead, we can continue to make things better, together.

-Trevor Brightman

AmeriCorps*NCCC, Western Region Corps Member

Class XII, Green 5

More information: 

AmeriCorps*NCCCMade With Love Cafe , #Katrina10

I highly recommend reading 1 Dead In The Attic by Chris Rose for more on life after the storm.

Better yet, go visit New Orleans and chat with a local. Trust me, they’ll have something to say.

Top 5 Air Travel Insider Tips!

insider tips

1. Make sure to be in the final boarding zone and carry-on as much luggage as you can. If your over stuffed-roller bag won’t fit in a tiny overhead space, just keep shoving. Although common sense and the basic laws of physics may tempt you into giving up, it’s more than likely that a just a few more shoves will do the trick, so pay no mind to the line of people that undoubtedly is forming behind you.

2. Once seated, speak at a volume roughly double the normally socially acceptable level. This will assure you can be heard by those you’re speaking to, but also those well in-front and behind you. Many airlines have limited entertainment options these days, and your cabin mates will certainly cherish the unavoidable opportunity to hear your insightful rambles.

3. This is a really important tip – When you need to stand up, feel free to go ahead and give the chair in front of you a strong, unannounced yank. The person napping in front of you shouldn’t mind. They’ll just think, “Surprise! Free chiropractic adjustment!”

4. Only get up to use the bathroom while drink service is going on. Sure 75 percent of the time the aisles are clear, but shoot for that 25 percent sweet spot. While making your way back, go ahead and give each of the people sitting along the aisle a nudge as you pass them. We can’t have them sleeping and unalert in case of an emergency. Just think, who would be able to help if you are unable to open your 1 ounce bag of pretzels?

5. Here’s one last insider traveler secret – after you land and taxi to the terminal, make sure to unbuckle and stand up immediately when the seatbelt sign is turned off . Pay no mind to the fact that it will take five to ten minutes until your row is able to start exiting into the aisle. You’ll want to stand uncomfortably with your neck tilted at a full 90 degrees and head against the air vents. Being up high will assure that everyone around will be able to see you roll your eyes when a passenger ahead struggles to retrieve an overstuffed roller bag. “Some people,” you’ll be able to proclaim, “how can they be so rude?” 😉

How to run

A friend of mine just told me that she’s running her first half-marathon later this year, which got me thinking about any advice I could give her. I ran my first (and second) half-marathon this past year and I learned a few lessons along the way through research, asking friends and through my own personal experience. Some of them may seem like common sense, but I believe if anyone commits the time and effort, than anyone, regardless of fitness level or age, can enjoy long distance running.  Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Get motivated. If you’re thinking about doing a long race, you probably enjoy running. But if you’re going to train for a long run you have to realize that you’ll need to train at times when you don’t want to. In other words, those mornings when the bed is so warm and the thought of getting up seems like the worst idea ever, that’s when you need to get up and put your shoes on and get outside. Often the anticipation of getting started is the worst part. Nike’s marketing people coined a phrase long ago that sums this point up: when you’re doubting if you’ll have time to run or if you think you can skip a day: “Just do it.” If you can run when you don’t want to run, you’ll succeed in training and building up longer distances.

2. Get proper gear. Obviously you’ll need some well fitting shoes. I also love dry-wick shirts and comfortable shorts. They make dry-wick socks if you are running on hot weather you might like them too. I run with a hat to keep the sun and sweat out of my eyes, some people prefer sunglasses or a headband. You may also want a case for a phone or ipod, headphones that won’t fall out, sunscreen or reflectors if you’re running at night. These items are an investment, but worth is if you use them often to be comfortable.

3. Get distracted. Running is very much a mental game. On long runs you’ll have a lot of time, so if you’re alone you’ll need something to occupy your mind.  That could be music, an interesting podcast, or just thinking things through on your own. Whatever you do, you don’t want thoughts of doubt creeping in. The last thing you want to be thinking about is slowing down or taking a break. I find it best to just sort of zone out and get lost in some music or a podcast and let the time go by.

“If you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do… the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”
-General George S. Patton

4. Stay fueled and hydrated. I used to run on an empty stomach thinking it was the best way to effectively exercise. It is not. Just like a car need fuel, the body needs something to burn if you’re going to maintain a high level of activity for more than 20 minutes or so. There are all kinds of useful products to fuel athletes these days and you’ll have to figure out what works best for you. I’ve found a banana, oatmeal or a cliff bar 20 minutes before a run gives me a good start, if I’m going for more than an hour I might grab an energy gel for some sugar and electrolytes. I also drink at least 24 oz of water before each run, and carry a bottle to sip on as I go. Most people don’t carry water, but I enjoy having it handy for the duration and even to refill at water fountains at parks and along paths. Simply put – fueling your body and staying hydrated will allow you to run further, faster, and more comfortably.

5. Find camaraderie. It’s tough to find people who run the same distance, pace and schedule as you, but there are lots of apps and websites where you can find friends and stay motivated together. Nike+ for example is an app I use on my iPhone that tracks my runs, but also allows me to see what my friends are doing. You can even create “challenges” between groups, for example a group of friends and I recently had a challenge to see who could run a total of 26.2 miles in four weeks. There are also running groups and clubs in many areas. And these days there are so many organized races you can sign up for, from 5k to marathons and beyond, and it can be fun to run in a huge crowd with spectators cheering you along.

6. Sign up for a race. I’ve found that once I’ve signed up for a race, the deadline helps me mentally and physically prepare for that specific goal. Knowing that I’ve made that commitment helps me realize that it’s real, and by spending money on a race there’s an incentive to not flake out and quit.

7. Create an stick to a schedule. There are tons of resources online for runners, including training programs and schedules that can help keep you on track. I found a good system to me was 2 short runs, 1 cross training day and 1 long run per week, with miles added on each week as I got closer to race day. I put all the miles into my calendar and I would receive a text reminder each day with my goal. I found this to be an easy way to keep track of where I was, and where I needed to be. Of course you could also use a paper calendar or any other system, just make sure you stick to it.

8. Find your pace. I’ve found there’s a big difference between running and jogging. While I loose my breath easily and have a hard time keeping up a fast pace, when I get into a comfortable pace I feel like I can jog along for mile after mile. I’m sure this has to do with heart rate, fitness level and form, but it’s important to realize that it’s ok to go slow and steady – as long as you just go.

9. Recover properly. Just like the body needs fuel to burn during a run, it also need proper nutrition after a run to recover. This can mean getting your sugar levels back in check, eating some carbs and protein, electrolytes and of course lots and lots of fluids. A throbbing dehydration headache later in the day can be a huge motivation killer to running, and the best way to avoid them is by taking care of yourself after a long run.  Personally I like a big fruit smoothie (1 banana, frozen strawberries, almond milk, low fat yogurt, whey protein powder). Sometimes I’ll drink coconut water or chocolate milk, fruit juice or even a beer. Your body looses a lot when you run, and if you don’t give it something back it won’t be happy with you.

10. Plan for the finish line. After all the training and all the running you cross the finish line and grab a metal, some snacks, and take a few photos – now what? Well your legs, feet, and pretty much everything else will be exhausted and you’ll be a smelly mess. I strongly recommend some flip flops and a change of shirt for when you’ve finished. It may not seem like a big deal, but a dry, clean shirt really does make a difference to your comfort level. Although most races provide snacks, you’ll want to find a big meal after your race, so either have something prepared or have a plan for a local restaurant. After that, all thats left to do is take a satisfying shower and a rewarding nap.

 

My uncle, myself and a friend enjoying a beer after the Los Angeles Rock and Roll Half Marathon

My uncle, myself and a friend enjoying a beer after the Los Angeles Rock and Roll Half Marathon

Food of the World in Los Angeles: Guangdong (China)

For the latest instalment of my quest to eat various food of the world here in Los Angeles I took the train down to Chinatown and checked out the Chinatown Bakery& Deli.

Chinatown Bakery and Deli Exterior

Located in the heart of Chinatown, this small restaurant was full of older asian guys chatting away in a language I didn’t understand as I picked out a few steamed buns to snack on before work.Chinatown Bakery and Deli Interior Chinatown Bakery and Deli case
If you’ve never had a chinese pork bun, or cha siu bao, you’re missing out. As I understand it, a cha siu bao is a baseball-sized bun of dough that’s stuffed with pork, sauce and seasoning and either steamed or baked. The result can be either a fluffy, sticky cloud that’s still moist with steam or golden brown and sometimes toped with a sweet, honey like glaze. Both are good, but I prefer steamed. Seriously, next time you see and chinese bakery go in and try a steamed pork bun. So good.

Chinatown Bakery and Deli Bao

Although these buns weren’t the best I’ve ever had (nothing compares to the subway station in Tokyo) these baos were tasty and for only ¢.60 each you really can’t go wrong by giving them a try. The young woman behind the counter was friendly and told me this type of food is found in Guangdong Province, in South East China near Hong Kong.
Chinatown Bakery and Deli Bao

For more Food of the World in Los Angeles, check out my posts on LA restaurants serving the food of ShanghaiVietnamEthiopiaSingapore, and Australia.

Food of the World in Los Angeles: Singapore

I stopped by Singapore’s Banana Leaf at the Farmers Market near the Grove the other day for a quick snack and some Malaysian food as part of my quest to eat local food from all over the world.
Banana Leaf at the Grove in LA

The Farmers Market is a part of the Grove, a huge complex in the heart of LA that has lots of stores and shops, restaurants, a food court and produce stands. It’s a cool place to window shop, see some unique things, do some shopping or grab lunch. We didn’t have a ton of time or much of an appetite so we just split a few apps – the Curry Puff (below) and a Roti Parathan.
Banana Leaf at the Grove in LA

The Puff was deep fried, filled with warmed seasoned vegetables and served with a delicious sweet chili sauce. The Roti was a warm, thin bread served with a coconut curry dipping sauce. Both were flavorful, but I bet the real action is in the main dishes, which I”ll have to come back and try.Banana Leaf at the Grove in LA

For more Food of the World of Los Angeles, check out my posts on the food of VietnamShanghai and Ethiopia.

Gear Review – Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

As part of the Terramar Tribe program, over the next few months I’ll be testing and reviewing some outdoor Terramar gear.  Terramar is a sports apparel company that specializes in base layers. Here’s my latest review:

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

Terramar Helix Tee | $20

For my first review I busted out this insanely bright neon green technical tee shirt and went for a 4 mile run along the strand at Playa Del Mar Beach here in Los Angeles. The breathable fabric fit me well and was very lightweight. The stitching seems sturdy and the sleeves sat at a comfortable length above my elbow.

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

Later I wore the shirt as I climbed the steep stairs leading up to the Baldwin Hills Overlook in Culver City and the Helix Tee really helped keep me dry as I started sweating about halfway up.

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

Finally, on a 7-mile hike to the peak of Smith Mountain in the San Gabriel Wilderness the tee worked as a solid base to keep my skin dry and warm as I progressed from sun to shade, low to higher altitude and while hiking and scrambling across different zones.

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

One thing I’d recommend for the next generation’s design would be a few small reflective patches of fabric around the back and sleeves – nothing too major, just something to catch the light of an oncoming car when jogging at night or catch the headlamp of a fellow night-kayaker. 

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

The Helix Tee comes in many different colors, and given its performance thus far I recommend checking it out, especially given the value at this price point. For more info checkout the Terramar Website.

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

 

Paragliding in Santa Barbara

Last summer I made my first visit to Santa Barbra California and I was blown away by the beauty of the entire area. I’ve been all up and down the east coast from Maine to Key West, all over Florida, the gulf coast, San Diego to Big Sur, and I’ve spent some time in the Pacific Northwest coast but Santa Barbara might be the most beautiful part of the country I’ve seen. Big, majestic mountains surround the charming and clean town.  Picturesque palms line bike paths and parks, sailboats fill the harbor and there are wide, bright beaches everywhere. Combine that with near perfect weather and the vibrancy that comes along with a few local colleges, and you have a pretty special place.

Palms at Sunset in Santa Barbara

Palms at Sunset in Santa Barbara

It was biking along one of those palm lined paths one day when I I looked up to see a few people flying above one afternoon, suspended below a parachute like contraption and gently gliding back and forth above the beach.

This, I thought, looks likes fun.

When they landed I asked them what they were up to and how to get involved. Here’s the definition according to everyone’s favorite source, wikipedia:

Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders: lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure.[1] The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing consisting of a large number of interconnected and baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by its suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.

The guys explained there was a company that does training for beginners right up the road, and to check out there website. So that day I learned more about Eagle Paragliding, did some more research and started to get excited.

A few months and a few emails later and my buddy Mike and I made the trek “up the hill” at Elings Park to join Eagle Paragliding for a full day lesson.

View of the Sky and the Pacific from the top of the hill at Ellings Park

View of the Sky and the Pacific from the top of the hill at Elings Park

After filling out a ton of paperwork and waivers, we got fitted for gear (helmets, radios, harnesses and wings) and the instructors demonstrated how it all works together. In it’s simplest terms, you strap your legs, waist and chest into a big, padded backpack that’s connected through a series of cords (risers) at the hip to a wide parachute style wing that inflates when you give it a pull into the wind and provides the lift you need to stay air bound. You control your speed and direction with pressure on these hip connections and also by pulling on hand levers that act as “brakes”.

We watched the instructors inflate the wings a few times by running forward and maintaining the right amount of pressure and force on the wing, then we each gave it a shot a few times.

Strapped into the harness, getting a feel for the risers, brakes and wing

Strapped into the harness, getting a feel for the risers, brakes and wing

Building "the wall" with the wing.

Building “the wall” with the wing.

Getting the wing ready to fly takes a lot of practice. One method for spreading it out evenly is to let it catch the wind for a second to “build a wall” before letting it lay flat on the ground before takeoff. But one of the trickiest parts was keeping control of the wing once it left the ground. It seemed very touchy – one second its floating evenly the next second its a wrinkled ball of nylon and string all bundled up. But after practicing we got a better idea of how to control it by feeling the pressures and making slight adjustments.

We then sat at the forward edge of the hill and had a preflight briefing. Here we talked about take off, flight plans, turning in the air and landing. At this point, after training for about an hour and a half, we prepared to make our first launches into the sky.

At this point I’m thinking to myself, is this safe?  I thought I had a good understanding of how it all works, but the idea of flinging myself into the air, completely reliant on this equipment and my own abilities to control it was a little daunting.

But, like the kid at the top of an intimidating sledding hill or the teenager behind the wheel alone for the first time: At some point the only way to learn is to do.

And so, we did.

Inflating the wing

Inflating the wing

Running toward the instructor at full speed until the wing lifts and inflates with air, we push forward until the wing speed and our speed match, push forward until it’s even and steady, and push until it creates enough lift that your feet leave the ground and you’re suspended 6 inches, 12 inches, 6 feet, 20 feet above the air.

And then, you’re flying.

Getting up to speed

Getting up to speed

Feeling the lift and take off

Feeling the lift and take off

Floating towards the Pacific

Floating towards the Pacific

 

Stepping into the foot rest and harness

Stepping into the footrest and harness

Enjoying the views, making turns

Prepping for the landing approach

Prepping for approach

Touchdown

Touchdown

Once you’ve made your first flight, your only thought is to gather your gear, get to the van as quick as you can for a ride back up the hill and do it all over again!

My buddy Mike in flight

My buddy Mike in flight

We did about 6 flights before lunch and about 6 after, and had a great time.

It was a really good chance to try something new and unique, enjoy nature and push our bodies to try something we’ve only seen James Bond or Batman do in the movies.

I think it’s also good to do something every once in a while that scares you a little bit. Find the edge and cross it. It’s not often we do that these days, but I think its important to figure out what your capable of. That, and its just fun.

Anyway, big thanks to the good folks at Eagle and my buddy Mike for joining and taking some photos.

Time to get off the computer for a bit, but stay tuned!

Food of The World in Los Angeles: Vietnam

“The Food of The World of Los Angeles.” is a series of posts intended to identify, discover, enjoy and share unique foods which originate from various places around the world.

 I got a recommendation from my barber (who moved to the US in 1993 from Vietnam) for a good place to grab a Bánh mì, or Vietnamese style sandwich.

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho ExteriorAnd when I say sandwich, I mean SANDWICH.

Fresh baguette bread (leftover influence from when the French colonized Vietnam), jalapenos, pickled carrots and radish, cucumber and fresh cilantro and your choice of meat or filling.

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho Interior

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho is really more of a takeout counter / store than a restaurant, I didn’t see any seating, but the place was very busy with customers. Along with the sandwiches made fresh to order, they also have lots of other vietnamese food which I couldn’t even attempt to identify, but which looked very interesting.

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho MenuPer the recommendation, I went for a Number 8, the Charbroiled Pork Sandwich.

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho Number 8

Well bah ME this thing is tasty! Crisp, warm bread, fresh veggies and a healthy heap of flavorful and juicy minced pork, all for under three bucks, you really can’t beat that. You could try, but trust me, you can’t. I’ve heard good things about their meatballs too, and I’d love to go back and try some egg rolls, which are sold from a case near the counter for fifty cents each.

For more info checkout Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho’s website or their page on Yelp.

Elephant Seal Siesta

Elephant Seal Siesta Elephant Seals, San Simeon, Piedras Blancas, Rookery, Highway 1, Central California Coast

I took this shot at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon Bay in California along the famous Highway 1.  It’s a very cool spot where you can get up close with some very large wild animals. Male Elephant Seals can grow up to 5,000 pounds. The rookery includes some information, a viewing area and a quarter-mile boardwalk where you can see and hear (and smell) them as they nap, waddle around and swim.  For more check out a live cam or this site which has some interesting info.

Planet Jackson Square

Planet Jackson Square

I snapped a panoramic shot of the sun rising over Jackson Square (top) and the Mississippi River (bottom) in New Orleans and was able to photoshop it into this small planet.
New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, and there’s so much potential for great photography there, I’ve got to get back and snap some more shots!

Magic Eye Illusion

Magic Eye Design

What can you see?

 

When I was young I used to think Magic Eye books were fascinating.  I loved the way 3d images were hidden in plain sight and the way modern design allowed us to trick our eyes into seeing things in another dimension.

While doing some surfing online today I came across a pretty cool website called Easy Stereogram Builder where you can actually make one easily and for free online.

Can you see the illusion in the image above? (Hint, it’s closely related to a previous post)