The 4th of July weekend heralds the real beginning of the summer vacation season. Still don’t know where to go yet? Allow me to help while shamelessly pushing my book, WHERE THE HELL AM I? TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED. Order yours here.
WTHAI?TISH (as most people refer to it) is a ten year collection of my humorous travelogues. Here are a few excerpts to help you decide where to go this summer.
DALLAS – (most people’s first choice for August travel) On every corner there’s either a steakhouse or a church. One place called “Holy Cow” could be either or both.
LAS VEGAS -- We hit the beach. Yes, Mandalay Bay has its own beach. Unfortunately, the ocean was turned off. No waves. But Debby (my wife) and I took a long walk along the grid that serves as the shore and gazed out at the horizon to see the Lance Burton Magician billboard on Las Vegas Avenue.
MAUI – Did not see the sunrise at Haleakala. But did get a report from someone who did. A bus picks you up 2:30 in the morning. You drive an hour and a half to the top of this massive shield volcano. By top I mean 10,023 feet. You get out in your shorts, flip flops, and aloha shirt -- it’s pitch black, and 22 degrees (literally). When the sun comes up (two hours later) it will rise to 37. Finally the dawn. It’s breathtaking, awesome, and your teeth are chattering like castanets. You don’t want to even think about the possibility that there’s a YouTube video of this. You get on the bus and either go home or into shock.
But we did visit quaint Lahaina. Strolled past the charming Crazy-T-Shirt and souvenir soap stores. This bawdy whaling port has not changed in a hundred years.
For all the hoopla of Lahaina, we found quite a few other smaller, lesser-known little towns that were far more charming and KFC-free. Paia, for one. It’s advertised as a throwback “hippie” village. And I must say it took me right back to the ‘60s when hippies supported their drug habits by selling gelato.
Makawao is another quaint attraction. Up country, it’s a little cowboy town, specializing in glass blowing – just like Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid used to do. I kept looking for the jail and saloon but alas they’ve given way to art galleries and a market that makes fresh donuts. But get there early. They go fast. There’s usually a shoot-out in the town square for the last cruller.
PHOENIX -- This is a sprawling city of giant shopping malls broken up by sports complexes. Oh, and numerous aircraft bone yards. From rusted out WWII planes to 747s that haven’t flown since Braniff went under, they’re all here. Was hoping to swing by and pick up an L1011 fuselage but time got away.
To get anywhere in Phoenix – to work, a restaurant, the rental car outpost from the airport – you just get on the freeway and go 13.2 miles. Everything is 13.2 miles away. Except Circle K’s. There are two on every corner. How much beef jerky can this town chew?
DENVER -- Denver is the most sexually active city in America. Contraceptive sales are 189% higher within the city limits than the national average (sales of female contraceptives are a whopping 278% higher). Coincidentally, Denver also has the world’s largest brewery (Coors).
Things not to miss: The Butterfly Pavilion insect zoo, the “Mind Eraser” rollercoaster at Elitch Gardens, the giant cement slide at Bear Valley Park that looks like a vagina, the Buckhorn Exchange restaurant with 500 stuffed animals (it’s how I imagine Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s bedroom), the stone marker that claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger, and any CVS pharmacy for contraceptives.
ST. LOUIS -- St. Loo is famous of course for the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Although, locals insist it’s not the same now that the Busch family has sold it to Germans. They claim the beer tastes different. I couldn’t tell, but I did notice the Clydesdales goose-stepping in a recent parade.
PHILADELPHIA -- Meant to get out to the Mutter Museum, founded originally to educate doctors of the 19th Century and current HMO’s. Big attractions include conjoined twins and a catalog of foreign objects removed from bodies. Bring the kids!
This is the birthplace of two major revolutions – the American and shopping. It is in nearby Westchester that QVC is located, which is why I thought I saw Marie Osmond at baggage claim waiting at the carousel for 42,000 dolls to come down the chute.
WASHINGTON D.C. -- So much to see: the monuments, Gennifer Flowers’ apartment, Capitol Hill, Paula Jones’ apartment, the White House, Monica Lewinsky’s apartment, the Smithsonian, the DC Madam’s place, the Mint, Elizabeth Ray’s apartment, Arlington Cemetery, Donna Rice’s apartment, and the Watergate hotel.
BOSTON -- Swung by the Quincy Market. There we ran across the new second Cheers bar. This one, they claim, is set up exactly like the one on TV. Maybe if you've never seen the show. The bar is square and two or three of the pictures on the back wall are the same. Otherwise, the bar on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine looks more like the real Cheers.
MILWAUKEE – (on the road with the Dodgers) stayed at the historic Pfister. The Pfister is pfirst class. It’s an old regal downtown hotel that just happens to be haunted. Some ballplayers are so freaked they stay elsewhere, or sleep holding a bat for protection. Carlos Gomez of the Twins was getting out of the shower and his iPod suddenly went haywire, so instead of calling AppleCare (or Ghostbusters?), he raced out to the lobby without his pants. I shared a room with the Ghost of Christmas Future. He told me that “UFC Undisputed” will sell out quick this season so shop early.
One thing I’ve discovered about Milwaukee – it’s in a time warp. The buildings, the cars, the people – it’s 1956. Friday night’s postgame concert featured newcomers Buddy Holly and the Crickets. In an attempt to blend in I wore an “Adlai Stevenson for President” button.
FLORIDA – (business trip with my writing partner, David) If a studio was paying for this trip we would have stayed in Naples. But since it was our own dime, Bonita Beach was our Gateway to the Gulf home. In the ‘20s there was this cult, the Koreshans, who believed that Bonita Beach was the center of the world. It was a celibate tribe so unfortunately it no longer exists. (Darwin works!) There’s just a state park in their honor. And if I’m not mistaken, the Hampton Inn we were staying at is at the center of Bonita Beach, and room 229, just to our left, is the absolute DEAD center of the world.
No wonder the Holiday Inn across the street is proud. Their marquee proclaims “Number one guest rated shower heads.”
Favorite store name (maybe ever): “Master Bait & Tackle Shop” on Bonita Beach Road. Yes, I purchased t-shirts.
See? How can you leave home without this book???